Where have all the sustainable tuna gone?

PhotoSkj (1)

By Megan Bailey

Where have all the sustainable tuna gone, long time passing?
Where have all the sustainable tuna gone, long time ago?
Where have all the sustainable tuna gone?
You have eaten them everyone.
Oh, when will you ever learn?
Oh, when will you ever learn?

Actually, it’s not entirely true. You have eaten them, surely. But actually, you have been eating mostly unsustainable tuna for a long time. So while there may still be some sustainable tuna out there to eat, likely it doesn’t find its way to your plate too often. We will explore why that is here.

In late October, Greenpeace and Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall (for the non-UK crowd, read about him here) launched an art installation to protest tuna importer John West and its parent company Thai Union. In 2011, John West committed to sourcing 100% of its tuna from sustainable sources by 2016. When they stay sustainable, John West was referring to sourcing from pole and line fisheries and from free-school fisheries. Greenpeace reports that they have only sourced about 2% of their tuna sustainably, leaving a whopping 98% to address in the next year. Additionally, and perhaps of more importance in my opinion, Thai Union was implicated in a New York Times exposé on slavery at sea, and thus the art installation calls out John West on this issue as well. This naming and shaming is a form of market-based governance, a growing approach to promote environmental sustainability through use of the market as a governing institution that incentivizes behaviour outside of traditional government interventions.

A little about pole and line fishing: it dates back hundreds of years. A fairly recent NGO, the International Pole and Line Foundation, highlights the mantra One hook, One man, One fish. Check out some youtube videos of the fishery in action, it is amazing to watch. Unbaited hooks on long fiberglass or bamboo rods are used to bring in skipjack tuna, while some of the crew throw bait off the sides of the boat, a practice called chumming. Chumming brings skipjack tuna to the surface and they are easily snared and flung aboard. The Maldives, Solomon Islands, Indonesia and Japan all have sizeable pole and line fisheries. The Maldives fishery obtained certification by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) in 2012, arguably the biggest name in the seafood eco-labeling game. The sustainability gains for pole and line fishing are purported to be ecological (due to a selective fishery with zero non-target catch, and the reason for MSC certification) and social (due to high amounts of labour required). Personally, I agree with the latter and think the jury is still out on the former.

PhotoMaldives

Absolutely it is more selective than say a non-free school fishery (more on that next), but it is absolutely not the case that pole and line only catches skipjack tuna. One can find canned yellowfin tuna that is labeled pole and line caught, and in fact in the MSC certification documents it is recognized on page 20 that in the Maldives fishery, “the main by-catch species is yellowfin, which comprises about 10% of the total catch”. In this case, said yellowfin are indeed bycatch and are immature (i.e., juveniles, have not reached maturity). IPNLF also writes on their website “zero bycatch”. Perhaps when they say zero bycatch they mean only of non-tuna species? But the MSC report also mentions rainbow runners and other finfish that are retained in the pole and line fishery. So perhaps they mean only non-fish bycatch? This may not entirely be the fault of IPNLF. As another leading tuna foundation (International Seafood Sustainability Foundation, ISSF) states, “It
 is
 important
 to
 always
 define 
how the term is being used in a given context. Otherwise, people who cite a bycatch of x% in this fishery and a bycatch of y% in that fishery, too often
 end 
up
 mixing
apples
 and oranges because each study may be using the term “bycatch” to mean a different thing.” But NGOs communicating about sustainability, and requiring sustainable sourcing commitments from their partners, need to be transparent and realistic about what sustainability gains are in fact reachable.

But I digress. This post is about John West sourcing sustainably from pole and line and free-school fisheries. What about that second part then, what are free-school fisheries? Most of the global tuna catch (about 60%) comes from the purse seine fishery, whereby a large net is cast around a school of tuna, closed at the bottom, and the school slowly hauled in to be offloaded onto a boat. Purse seine boats have a couple of choices when they do this. They can either set their net around a school that is associated with a floating object (which can be anything from a drifting log to a large man-made structure called a fish aggregating device or FAD), or they can set it on a free-school. About 65% of the total global purse seine catch was made on floating objects in 2014. So what? Floating objects attract schools of tropical tuna, as well as other fish and marine life like rainbow runners, dolphinfish (a fish, not a dolphin…), sharks and rays, and sea turtles. PEW Charitable Trusts has a short video of how FAD fishing works. FAD fishing is thought to be a less-sustainable form of tuna fishing than free-school fishing and pole and line fishing because of the high catch of non-target species, and is specifically villanized for its catch of immature yellowfin and bigeye tuna (although as we just read, pole and line also catches immature yellowfin). Notably, if we combine the numbers above, purse seine fisheries setting on FADs make up 40% of all tuna caught, traded and consumed. Additional to that is the fact that pole and line and handline fisheries also catch fish on FADs, so demonizing FADs is a blanket way of demonizing the majority of tuna catches worldwide.

The point of all is this is just that expecting to have your sustainable tuna and eat it too might not be possible. There just isn’t enough sustainable tuna on the market. And actually, it might be disingenuous of NGOs to name and shame companies into making sustainable sourcing commitments that they will absolutely never be able to keep. Rather it needs to be a conversation. Do you want to sell (insert eat here if you are a consumer) tuna? If so, you have choices. You can commit to sourcing only sustainable tuna (but I’m still not convinced what that is…) and drop your supply by half. Or you can acknowledge, as John West has been forced to do here, that in fact the methods by which you wanted to source will not allow you to meet the demand that you have for tuna, and you need to make a revised and more credible sourcing commitment.

For starters, how about committing to slave-free tuna, also demanded of John West by Greenpeace? That commitment ought to be easy to meet, right? Actually, not likely, but more on that in a future post. In the meantime, it’s time for consumers, civil society and the seafood industry to (wo)man up. Sourcing and eating only sustainable seafood is hard. It can be done, but it will require sacrifice and putting your money where your mouth is. Statistically speaking, the fish and seafood you eat is probably not sustainable, because the majority of the world’s fisheries are not managed in a sustainable way, are not operating on healthy stocks, do not employ labour rights or standards in their operations, and are not transparent in communicating practices to regulators and consumers. Sustainability means having fish in the future oceans and having fish harvesters exploiting said fish. If honest conversations and transparent credible commitments are not forthcoming, the next song we sing won’t just be about the missing sustainable fish, but the missing fish harvester too.

Where have all the fish harvesters gone, long time passing?

PhtosMeg

The UN’s most inclusive body at a crossroads

By Matheus Alves Zanella and Jessica Duncan

Posted also at http://globalsoilweek.org/areas-of-work/sustainable-development-goals/the-uns-most-inclusive-body-at-a-crossroads 

The world food price crisis of 2007/08 shook global food governance. Pressured to find solutions for unexpected prices increase of several food products, many initiatives were launched at the global level.  One of those was the reform of the United Nation’s Committee on World Food Security (CFS), who transformed itself from “the most boring UN body of all” – in the words of an experienced diplomat based in Rome – to the foremost inclusive international and intergovernmental platform for food security, with substantive participation of different actors including member states, civil society and private sector.

That was 2009 and there was a general sense of urgency in addressing claims that over 1 billion people were going hungry worldwide. The reformed CFS was well positioned in this debate, by giving voice to all actors, notably those most affected by food insecurity, and transitioning from an inactive talk-shop to a leading intergovernmental body. Through the Committee, member States were able to endorse key policy documents on two major food security issues: land tenure (the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Tenure of Land Fisheries and Forest in the Context of National Food Security – VGGT) and investments (Principles for Responsible Investments in Agriculture and Food Systems – CFS-RAI).

Now, five years after the reform, the CFS just had its 42nd Plenary last week and we, as well as many other participants, sensed a change in the air. First, the initial ambition of the CFS seems to be fading away, and it appears as though the CFS is now entering a phase characterized by a lack of clarity on the future relevance of its decisions. Second, members continue to disagree about which direction the CFS should take – illustrated by relatively weak decision on Monitoring and Evaluation and the mild debates on the positioning of the CFS vis-à-vis the new development agenda launched by the approval of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The decision will not see the CFS featuring prominently in the SDG agenda for another two years, as some have expected. Third, the multi-stakeholder format of the reformed CFS is being put into question, as demonstrated by one very important intervention of the Civil Society Mechanism (CSM) in the closing session of the CFS plenary.

It is up to debate whether the CFS is losing influence or importance, or whether it had much to begin with. Considering that undermining one of the most inclusive UN bodies would consequently further open the door to less-inclusive governance mechanism to occupy its space, we prefer to see a strong and active CFS for years to come. In order to remain relevant, the CFS could avoid two major risks:

  1. Shifting back to the Committee’s pre-reform role of only monitoring international commitments, and
  2. Failing to address controversial topics, such as agroecology or bioenergy, as its strength is based on forging consensus such as those achieved on land tenure and on investment.

In what follows we provide some initial reflections on how the CFS currently finds itself at a crossroads.

Continue reading “The UN’s most inclusive body at a crossroads”

3 year Teaching Fellow posts in the UK related to food studies

What: 3 year Teaching Fellow posts  are available with a focus on innovating and liaising across food-related Masters at 5 UK Universities.

Why: The Centre for Food Policy has won a large UK Higher Education Funding Council for England grant to develop an exciting phase of innovation, education and sharing across 5 Universities’ food-related Masters Programmes. The bid was led by Oxford and included City University, Reading and Warwick Universities. They are now hiring post-doctoral students for full time posts (3 year contracts).The 5 posts at the 5 Universities are being co-ordinated by Reading University human relations.One post will be based with the Centre for Food Policy (I can attest that this is a great place to work!).

When: They want to start in the beginning of the academic year. So the appointments process is tight / speedy.

More info here: http://www.reading.ac.uk/about/jobs/about-job-details.aspx?vacancy_id=9741528lNY

Good luck!

NEW BOOK: Food Security Governance: empowering communities, regulating corporations by Nora McKeon

A new and exciting book about food security governance is out and it is a MUST READ.  I have just received my copy and will follow up with a more detailed review but in the mean time, check out the summary and the reviews:

Today’s global food system generates hunger alongside of land grabs, food waste, health problems, massive greenhouse gas emissions. Nora McKeon’s just-released book explains why we find ourselves in this situation and explores what we can do to change it. It opens with a brief review of how the international community (mis)managed food issues from WWII up to the time of the food price crisis of 2007-2008. It moves on to contrast the ways in which actors link up in corporate global food chains as compared to the local food webs that we think of as “alternative” but in fact feed most of the world’s population. It unpacks relevant paradigms – from productivism to food security and food sovereignty – and points out the perils of “scientific evidence-based” decision-making when it intrudes on the terrain that properly belongs to political process and value-based debate. The author highlights the significance of adopting a rights-based approach to solving food problems whereby adequate food is not simply a desirable outcome but an inalienable right that governments are obliged to ensure for their citizens. She describes how people around the world are organizing to protect their access to resources and build better ways of food provision and governance from the bottom up, in what is increasingly referred to as a food sovereignty movement. She discusses how the Committee on World Food Security – a uniquely inclusive global policy forum since its reform in 2009 – could be supportive of these efforts. The book concludes with a call to blow the whistle on speculative capitalism by building effective public policy instruments for accountable governance and extending their authority to the realm of regulating markets and corporations.

To obtain a 20% discount visit the book’s page on the Routledge website  www.routledge.com/9780415529105 and enter the code FDC20 at check-out.

‘Nora McKeon does a superb job at describing how governments have allowed markets and corporations to take control of food systems, and which tools could be used to provide healthier diets, ensure greater resilience, and empower communities.’– Olivier De Schutter, former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food
 
‘At such an uncertain time in global food provisioning, Nora McKeon’s book offers an exceptional perspective… a lively account of food system crisis, competing paradigms and new questions of governance in an accessible and forward-looking analysis.’ —Philip McMichael, Cornell University, USA
 
‘This book is an overdue account of the fight over reform. It is a fine reminder that food democracy is the key to feeding everyone equitably, healthily, affordably and sustainably.’ – Tim Lang, City University, London, UK
 
‘..a wonderfully readable account of the world food crisis, distinguished by its grounded faith in the capacity of organizations – of people and governments – to prevent future hunger.’— Raj Patel, Research fellow at UCB and author of Stuffed and Starved, and The Value of Nothing
 
‘Nora McKeon understands the Byzantine world of global food politics better than anyone I know …. Everyone fighting for Food Sovereignty has to read this book.’ —Pat Mooney, ETC Group
 
‘Brilliant! An eye-opening tour of the march to democratize global food governance… A must-read for all who want to go beyond competing “issues” to governance itself — and real solutions.’ — Frances Moore Lappé, author of Diet for a Small Planet
 
‘A must-read for food activists seeking to go beyond slogans, techno-administrative fixes or business as usual into the realm of active, popular democracy.’ — Eric Holt-Giménez, Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy
 

Call for Papers! Cross-Disciplinary Issues for Food Governance: Challenges and Opportunities

We are now looking for papers for a Session on Cross-Disciplinary Issues for Food Governance: Challenges and Opportunities for the ECPR General Conference 2015, Montreal

INFO HERE: http://ecpr.eu/Events/SectionDetails.aspx?SectionID=423&EventID=94 

Section Chair Gerard Breeman & Section Co-Chair Jessica Duncan
Wageningen University and Research Center
Keywords
Development, Environmental Policy, Global, Governance, Public Administration, Public Policy
Abstract
The call for more integrated food policy and governance arrangements, away from a mono-disciplinary focus on agricultural, international development, environment health is increasing alongside recognition of the need to address the complexity of food systems. As such, policies that integrate nutrition and public health, agriculture, environment, ethics and social justice, trade, ecology, spatial planning, climate change, water management, and energy are needed.

Yet, the interconnectedness of relevant policy domains means that food represents a policy challenge as well as a governance challenge at multiple levels (i.e., local, national, international, multinational) and scales (from global discussion about food security and supply, to local water management; from acute problems to looming catastrophes). All these linkages and cross-overs pose challenges to state actors, civil society, and the private sector. There is a need to setup cross-boundary governance arrangements between traditional institutions and administrative competences, but also expand analysis of possible gaps between institutions, deadlocks, miscommunication or the lack of coordination.

In this section we explore a variety of issues that arise when working towards integrated food policies. We welcome paper proposals that analyse cross-policy and governance issues related to food and agriculture.

We propose the following panels:

1. Governing food policy at the nexus: Jessica Duncan (Wageningen University) and Gerard Breeman, (Wageningen University)

A scientifically-framed nexus of threats, marked by a perfect storm of environmental challenges, has recently attracted attention across in global governance regimes. There has been widespread agreement on the need for greater coordination and coherence in governance arrangement to address these challenges, but integration has been weak in practice. This panel seeks papers that interrogate the governance environment and identify the challenges and opportunities at the intersection of food security, energy, finance, natural resources and climate change governance.

2. Changes and transformations in global coordination for food security: Matthieu Brun (IDDRI) and Sébastien Treyer (IDDRI Science Po)

The 2008/2009 food price crisis highlighted an urgent need for a global coordination on food security. There have been initiatives to coherently define food security as a global public good or a global commons. Since the food crisis the fragmented global governance of food security has seen institutional and procedural changes. Nation States claims that food security is a matter of sovereignty, are questioned by various stakeholders, emerging initiatives, and new partnerships. Civil Society Organisations have gained space through the development of inclusive approaches in global governance and are investing in different political arenas to promote their vision to achieve food security and establish inclusive agricultural at regional and national levels. Transnational corporations and private sector are expected to play a key role in the development agenda, especially in agriculture. This panel aims at analysing transformations in the food security governance; the emerging arrangements, their accountability mechanisms, and the new power relations resulting from such changes and the opportunities to rethink food systems in relation to issues such as climate change, sustainable development, and the financial crisis.

3. Food System Governance: Katrien Termeer (Wageningen University) and John Ingram (Oxford University)

Much of the food security debate used to centre on food production and developing countries. Scholars and policymakers, however increasingly request a broader and more integrated approach. The food system concept for instance, aims to understand the interconnected relationships between: various activities ; various food security outcomes , various scales, and various socio-economic and environmental constraints and impacts. This broader perspective enhances new governance challenges, due in part, to the inherent fragmented institutional structure of the food system, characterized by predefined jurisdictional scales, compartmentalisation of policy domains and separated public and private spheres. The current governance institutions strengthen the food system but they also hinder it, because there are too few linkages, the short term dominates the long term; or they provide too little flexibility. Governance arrangements are challenged to cross these historically entrenched institutional boundaries, that allocate power relationships and resources, and that represent dominant beliefs, roles and rules. We welcome theoretical papers contributing to the understanding of food system governance, and empirical papers (from developing and developed countries) that analyse promising governance arrangements based on a food system perspective.

4. Challenges in Food Governance: Carsten Daugbjerg (The Australian National University and Grace Skogstad (University of Toronto)

Previously, governing food and agriculture was for insiders who were policy experts and represented the industry or the government. Agricultural policy focussed on maintaining farm incomes and ensuring the viability of the farm industry. Food regulation was aimed at ensuring consumers safe food. Over the last three decades, multiple dimensions have been added to food and agricultural policies so that the latter now interlink with policy domains such as trade, development, biotechnology, energy, environment, and ethical consumer concerns. The multi-dimensionality of agriculture and food policy has brought new actors and interests into agri-food policy making, challenging existing governance structures. This panel examines the ability of existing theories of governance and public policy to explain the consequence of these challenges for changes in food governance.

5. The aftermath of the food price crises: implications for food governance: Jeroen Candel (Wageningen University)

The food price crises of 2007/2008 and 2010 led to political attention to food systems in general, and food security in particular. Although food prices have not (yet) subsided to previous levels and food security still plays an important role in policy and scholarly discussions, have the spikes resulted in any structural changes regarding the governance of food security. This panel seeks to understand recent developments in the governance of food security and food systems. We welcome papers that empirically analyze and discuss change and continuity of governance systems, institutions, policies, policy instruments, and/or political leadership in the aftermath of the food price crises. Comparative studies are particularly welcomed.

UK Food Group – volunteer opportunity

The UK Food Group has an opportunity for a volunteer to assist the network’s coordinator, particularly around fundraising from charitable trusts.

The UK Food Group is the main network of NGOs in the UK working on global food, farming and hunger issues. It includes development, environment, farming and academic groups. 

An outline of the volunteer’s role
Starting as soon as possible, we are looking for someone who can volunteer* for one day a week, ideally for three months. You will be providing support to the network coordinator, including tasks such as:
 – securing funding from charitable trusts for the network to work on supporting smallholder investment in agriculture
 – compiling case studies on agroecology from members
 – putting together a newsletter for the UK food sovereignty movement
 – helping update content for the UK Food Group’s forthcoming new website
 – general network admin, including helping to organise meetings and respond to enquiries

You would be volunteering at the UK Food Group’s base in the office of our sister network, Sustain, which is close to Angel Tube station in central London.

Desirable skills and interests
 – knowledge of international development and global food system issues
 – experience of writing grant applications and researching funding opportunities
 – ability to work independently
 – computer literacy
 – good interpersonal skills

To apply
If you are interested in volunteering please:
 – email your CV to ukfg [at] ukfg.org.uk
 – in the covering email please outline:
    – what you feel that you can bring to the network, including your relevant skills and experience
    – what you hope to get out of volunteering with the network
    – for how many months you will be available

Applications close on Tuesday 2 April and shortlisted applicants will be contacted by the end of that week to be invited for an informal interview.

* The successful applicant’s relationship with the UK Food Group would be as an unpaid volunteer and there is no intention of forming any employment relationship. If carrying out tasks in the Sustain office for five or more hours in a given day, we can reimburse a volunteer’s receipted out-of-pocket expenses for lunch (up to £4) and travel to/from the office (up to £6).

We encourage applications from anyone with relevant skills and interests, but regret that we are unable to offer any payment or expenses beyond those outlined above. We are not able to assist with finding accommodation or with visa applications.

L’Aquila Food Security Initiative has its first meeting of 2012

In July 2008, G8[1] Leaders meeting in Hokkaido Toyako, Japan issued a Leaders Statement on Global Food Security.[2] In the statement, G8 leaders stated their ongoing commitment to pursue all possible measures to ensure global food security, noting that since January 2008, they had committed over $10 USD billion to support food measures to increase agricultural outputs in affected countries.  The Statement emphasized the urgency of short-term needs (e.g., access of small-holder farmers to fertilizers), a commitment to increase food aid and investment and recognised the coordinating role of the UN through their support for the High Level Task Force on the Global Food Crisis (HLTF).  They also encouraged countries with surplus to released food stocks and called for the removal of export restrictions (G8 2008).

At the L’Aquila Summit, the following year, the G8 issues a stronger declaration highlighting the need to increase agricultural production. Twenty-six nations and fourteen international organizations launched the “L’Aquila” Food Security Initiative.  The Declaration was reinforced through the “L’Aquila” Joint Statement on Global Food Security[3] and a commitment to raise $22 billion over three years for agricultural investment and agreement on a comprehensive and coordinated approach, partnering with countries facing dramatic food insecurity to jointly implement national food security strategies.

The approach is articulated around five principles:

  1. Investment in country-led plans and processes;
  2. A comprehensive approach to food security that includes support for humanitarian assistance, sustainable agriculture development and nutrition;
  3. Strategic coordination of assistance;
  4. A strong role for multilateral institutions; and,
  5. Sustained commitment of financial resources.

The L’Aquila Food Security Initaitive, chaired by the USA,  has been meeting quite regularly and just had their first meeting of 2012. A video of US Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s statement and the transcripts can be viewed here

“As the United States looks forward to our tenure as Chair of AFSI in 2012, our primary goal is to ensure not only that donor countries are living up to our own financial pledges, but also that these contributions are being allocated strategically and making a real difference in the fight against global hunger. To do this, we will expand reporting on our investments at the country level, deepen our engagement with developing country partners, track our spending on research for agricultural development, and measure the impact of our investments.”

Want to know more about the AFSI? Keep on reading!

Continue reading “L’Aquila Food Security Initiative has its first meeting of 2012”