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One Night in Bangkok - Part I: Your Hosts, Your Bullies

by Eco-Safe Tuna
September 16, 2015

One Night in Bangkok - Part I: Your Hosts, Your Bullies Credit: Kevin Poh, Flickr, Creative Commons

This November, Friend of the Sea and Dolphin-Safe (aka Earth Island Institute) are hosting a meeting in Bangkok with the Thai Tuna Industry Association to reach out to retail and catering buyers. The purpose of this meeting is to convince retail and catering buyers that the only tuna to buy is tuna labelled dolphin safe and that by requesting and buying “dolphin safe” tuna, more suppliers will be incentivized to change their fishing methods. Unfortunately, this isn’t what actually happens, and the reality is that Friend of the Sea and Earth Island are looking to protect and expand their money making scheme.

What is more interesting is not what Friend of the Sea and Earth Island are going to tell these buyers about canned tuna, but what important facts that they will be leaving out. In this three part blog post we will address some of the issues we’re certain that Friend of the Sea and Earth Island will conveniently omit from the meeting.


Part I – Your Hosts, Your Bullies

First, let’s talk about Friend of the Sea and Earth Island’s less than shining track records as environmental groups. As the self-appointed arbiter and enforcer of eco-labels and “dolphin safe” labels on several seafood products in the United States, Europe and Canada, Friend of the Sea and Earth Island have proven time and time again to be an enemy to sea life.

Many, many times before we’ve covered how Earth Island’s “dolphin safe” label is a sham and a scam. How they are willing to stand up for companies who are conducting IUU fishing and how their certification process for “dolphin safe” labels is unmonitored and self-reported and is therefore unenforceable, and how the fishing method they promote actually harms more sea life than the fishing method they abhor. Some of the most prominent environmentalists have distanced themselves from Earth Island because of their promotion of FAD fishing and ties to the tuna industry. In short, they’re in it for the green and we’re not talking the environment.

For Friend of the Sea, their biggest problem is that their ecolabel fails the basic tests of credibility and lacks a scientific foundation for the criteria they require for certification. Friend of the Sea appears to do no original scientific research to back up their claims. Instead, they rely on international data that is often in the aggregate. Friend of the Sea does not include stakeholders in their review process – they only pick their friends to review their standards. Their auditing process lacks transparency and they don’t share the details about how their process audits are conducted, by whom and what the results are. The section on Audit and Chain of Custody on their website is vague, but they are all too clear about the fact that it will cost your organization if you decide to go ahead with a certification audit, “As soon as possible you will receive from Friend of the Sea a quotation for the audit and, in case of certification, the royalties to use the logo in the following years.”

A report by WWF entitled Smart Fishing Initiative: Comparison of Wild-Capture Fisheries Certification Schemes concludes that “limited information is provided [by Friend of the Sea] on governance, independence and organizational structure. In most cases it is not possible to determine from available sources whether or not, and to what degree, the [certification] criteria are addressed.” In fact, based on the WWF report, Friend of the Sea is only “semi-compliant” with criteria to “consider whether or not and to what degree the schemes are responding to changing expectation about how their programs should be managed, how wild fish stocks should be maintained, and the standards to which credible certification schemes should aspire.”

Further evidence that Friend of the Sea and Earth Island are a farce is the fact that they certify companies that are taking part in Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing. Earlier this year, Taiwan-based F.C.F. Fishery was one of several companies that were fined as a supplier of IUU tuna. FIVE(!) of their vessels were added to the Greenpeace International Blacklist, so this wasn’t a onetime mistake.

It is interesting that this meeting is taking place in Thailand, a location that is well known for supplying 55 percent of the U.S. canned tuna market and for looking the other way when it comes to IUU fishing. More on that and the other problems present in the Thai fishing industry in our next installment.