I don’t eat tuna. I haven’t for years. This after I read how at risk Blue Fin Tuna are, more endangered than our precious Tigers even. Partly as a result of the increase in Sushi consumption, which leads to unnecessary over fishing, and then there are the terrible methods in use. Basically they are currently headed to extinction, Blue Fin first. Next Yellow fin tuna will follow. And who knows which species thereafter. Sadness for sure.
This in mind, when I was invited to join a visit with the largest Tuna processing plant in the country, I went knowing I had to learn more. With an open mind and heart I was determined not to crumble at the thought of those beautiful fish nearly lost to us. I was more than pleasantly surprised by this slick and ethical operation and how much I learnt.
The visit was to Sea Freeze at Hout Bay, where we were hosted by the very charming career piscatarian Gary, who took us down to the fishing boats to speak to the actual fishermen. There were about 12 boats docked, all contracted to supply Sea Freeze. Given the patterns of the Tuna, they only have about three months a year to catch tuna. And even then, its weather dependent and on this day it was the wind that had kept them on shore. These are some pics of the beautifully colourful boats, with the harbor in the background.
One of the fisherman who’s been practicing long line fishing for years, as has his father and grandfather before him. He explained that the fishing is all done by line, with hooks tied to the rope and let out, to a length of as much as 15 metres. One of his crew was re-enforcing the hooks to the rope in this downtime.
The second method used off these trawlers is the bamboo rod and hook, with these hooks in play. Tuna boats are then loaded with men fishing with live bait as the vessel sprays seawater onto the sea surface and scatters a few live baitfish to attract the tuna. I found a video of this and its crazy in the wild waters.
Basically these are the same methods of fishing for tuna that have been used for centuries, and if they were the only methods used, I imagine that we would not be suffering the over-fishing crisis that we are. Turns out that the cause of that is the 20km nets that catch up anything and everything, as well as the ‘vacuum cleaners’ that suck everything out of the ocean. Dolphins, turtles, sharks etc, with the excess simply thrown in the ocean as waste.
Of course the question of whether the line fishing method is picking up more than the required tuna was raised, and yes, I imagine it is, but the chances of those animals surviving is greater with actual men and not just machinery involved.
Wil this change my stance on eating tuna, or for that matter anything out of the ocean – which I no longer do for exactly these sustainability reasons. No. It won’t. I will remain an active fighter for the creature of the oceans, their conservation and protection.
However, if tuna and fish are to be enjoyed by you, please check your SASSI list to see which you can eat. Check your supplier and make sure that they are not being caught in a nasty manner that kills too many innocents in the process. If you don’t know SASSI its a Sustainable Seafood Initiative that has coded our fish species from Red for endanered to green for sustainable. There are little booklets that can easily be carried with you for easy reference. There is no longer an excuse to eat species that are at risk.
Let’s fight together for a sustainable and respectful relationship between our fisherman and the creatures of the Ocean. One that works for both parties and supports the small business too. Its the only way to move forward into the future.
Thank you to Gary of Sea Freeze and your colleagues for all of the insight that you offered during my visit. Appreciate it!