We can do better

With approximately 800 million people dependent upon fisheries and aquaculture for their livelihoods around the world, the global seafood industry has a clear responsibility to deliver upon the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The SDGs – through their holistic vision to eradicate poverty and deprivation, grow economies, protect the environment, advance peace and promote good governance – provide the ideal framework to support responsible fisheries.

Tuna is a global commodity that is consumed in high-end markets as steaks, sushi, sashimi, and poke, but is also a vital affordable source of protein for many coastal communities in developing countries. One-by-one tuna fishers are often marginalised when it comes to governance decision-making and access to markets, despite its key contributions to social, economic, and food-security benefits.

It is time to rethink the business-as-usual approach and to build a better world where fisheries are sustainably managed while safeguarding the livelihoods they support. Ocean leaders from business, civil society, international organizations, science, and technology have an opportunity to conserve and sustainably use our ocean, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development so that “no one is left behind”.


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equity in fisheries

sdg 14 Life under water – Restore ocean life and safeguard the livelihoods the support

Small-scale fisheries contribute to the livelihoods, food security, and identity of some of the world’s most marginalised communities.

Governments and businesses need to take care of  the people most reliant upon them by ensuring fisheries are environmentally sustainable, socially just, and economically inclusive.

No Voice

Fishers often lack the capacity to effectively participate in decision-making processes.

Market Access

Difficult or impossible to compete with (certified) industrial fisheries that flood the market with large volumes of “cheaper” fish.

Depleted Stocks

Negatively impacted by industrial-driven overfishing and struggling to obtain fishing rights (quota).

Did you know?

Small-scale fisheries employ 55 times more fishers per tonne of fish caught compared to large-scale fisheries.

  • employment
  • food security
  • livelihoods
  • local economy
  • identity and culture

Low Impact Gears

Support gears and techniques (such as pole-and-line, handline, and troll) that:

  1. minimise the catch of non-target species; and
  2. keep sensitive marine habitats intact.

Access to Resources

Prioritise sustainable small-scale fisheries when allocating fishing rights and manage overfishing threats from industrial fleets

Recognise and Invest

Ensure the importance of small-scale fisheries is recognised by seafood markets and consumers. Invest in sustainability, safety, and labour rights improvements.

harmful fisheries subsidies

sdg 14 Life Below Water – Subsidies should support fishers not fishing activities

Harmful subsidies* are a key driver of unsustainable fishing practices and cost an estimated $22 billion each year (>60% of the $35 billion spent by governments globally).

*The transfer of money from a government to a public entity (fishing operator or processor)


Harmful subsidies enable fishing beyond economically or ecologically sustainable levels. These include fuel, gear, vessel modernisation and vessel-building subsidies – 22% of global subsidies are fuel subsidies.


86% of subsidies go to industrial, corporate run fishing fleets vs 14 % for Small-scale Fishers (SSF). Small-scale fishers represent 96% of employment in the fisheries sector.

90% of fuel subsidies go to industrial-scale fisheries. Of the US$6.6 billion in subsidies provided to SSF, US$3.9 billion are capacity-enhancing, or harmful, while US$2 billion are beneficial.

Human Rights

Subsidies drive tuna prices below those feasible for fleets who actually have to pay for their full operating costs. The resultant, i irrationally low, price expectations enable fisheries using slaves and abusing labour to profit most from this situation.

Economic Dependence

Subsidies promoting Distant Water Fishing Nation fleets can be a trojan horse to political and economic influence, creating economic dependence of developing states which is masked as capacity-building/development.


Subsidies help companies turn a profit where they may have otherwise made a loss, allowing fishing to continue where it is not economically viable – 54% of high seas fisheries would be unprofitable at current fishing intensities, without subsidies.

Redirect Funds

Help redirect funds into positive finance mechanisms that support sustainable small-scale fisheries, promote effective monitoring, control, and surveillance (MCS) and improve safety at sea.

Zero Tolerance of Harmful Subsidies in Fisheries Certification Schemes

Certification schemes should investigate use of harmful subsidies within their fisheries, suspend fisheries where evidence is found and refrain from engaging new fisheries, if they are in receipt of harmful subsidies.

Support the Call for an End


Industrial scale fishers receive 90 % of fuel subsidies, small-scale fishers only receive 10 %


sdg 14 – Life below water – Protect and restore ocean life

In addition to a mounting plethora of anthropogenic threats facing ocean health; current practices in tuna fisheries jeopardise biodiversity and ecosystem health unnecessarily, usually in pursuit of profit.

Bycatch and Discards

Bycatch and discards of undersized, unmarketable or spoilt fish is common in tuna fisheries using non-selective gears; killing marine life, adversely impacting tuna stock dynamics, biodiversity and resilience.

Illegal Trade in Endangered Species

The deliberate or incidental capture and trade of endangered, threatened and protected species, such as sharks, rays, turtles, and cetaceans all occur in tuna fisheries that use nets or other non-selective fishing gears. The risk of shark finning and other illicit activities is highest on the remote and relatively lawless high seas.

Fishing Gear Conversions

Promote national/regional scale gear conversion projects from high-environmental-impact methods (such as gill net) to low-impact sustainable methods (handline).

Reduce Fishing Pressure

Reduce pressure on overexploited tuna and tuna-like species to allow stock recovery to sustainably harvestable levels and ensure long-term food and livelihood security.

Fishing Method Improvements

Support methods which minimise the likelihood of capturing and killing non-targeted species (use of circle hooks, purse seine fisheries not using FADs, streamers to stop bird capture when setting longlines, etc).

Prioritise Sustainable Small-Scale Tuna Fisheries

Promote small-scale fisheries in exclusive economic zones and limit high seas fishing activities.

No Endangered Sharks, Turtles, or Cetaceans Should be Retained on Vessels at any Time

Encourage live release where possible and a fins naturally attached policy for retained sharks.

human rights at sea​

sdg 16 – Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions – End Human Rights Abuses in tuna supply chains

Appalling human rights abuses including modern day slavery, human trafficking, physical abuse and murder plaguing irresponsible tuna fisheries, especially those operating on the remote and relatively lawless high seas beyond national jurisdictions

Unethical Recruitment

Fisher recruiting agents manipulate or force vulnerable people into debt bondage, forced labour or slavery onboard high-seas fishing vessels.

At-sea Transshipments

These trans-shipments enable some fishing vessels to stay continuously at-sea for years, entrapping onboard labour without the ability to escape or communicate with the outside world.

Impunity to Law

Lack of effective jurisdiction on high seas and using flags of convenience make abuses on fishing vessels difficult to detect or prosecute.

Opaque Business Operations

Vessels can change their ownership, flag and markings to avoid convictions and intentionally hamper investigations into labour abuses or mysterious onboard deaths.

Lack of Legal Representation

High-seas fishing crews and observers lack an effective or safe whistleblowing process or legal protection to pursue grievances.

Strengthen Legislation

Demand the closure of legal loopholes enabling vessels to use flags of convenience and the manipulation of weak international maritime law to avoid convictions.

End at-sea Transshipments

Regular mandatory contact with land allows inspection of vessels and exposure of human rights abuses and illegal activity.

Market Power

Stop buying tuna from sources where human rights abuses may have taken place, especially subsidised fleets operating on the high seas.

Full Transparency

Encourage full transparency in tuna seafood supply chains, especially operations with high risk of human rights abuses.

Communication Technology for Crew

Ensure crew and observers have safe and unhindered access to a means of communication, allowing them to safely raise grievances or flag human rights abuses, independent of the captain/officers.

Affordable Legal Counsel

Enable fishermen, observers, and their families to pursue justice and ensure convictions when grievance occur.

PLastic Pollution

sdg 14 – Life below Water – Reduce Marine Pollution

Plastic pollution is one of the most widespread problem affecting the marine environment, and at current rates plastic will outweigh fish in the ocean by the year 2050.

Fishing gears are made from plastic that can remain present in the marine environment for 600+ years.


More attention needs to be turned towards sea-based sources of plastic pollution that is mostly associated with industrial fishing.


The worst performing fisheries of the fishing sector are not being held accountable in terms of plastic pollution and contributions to the associated decline of marine species.

Environmental Threats

Fishing nets are the most deadly form of plastic pollution, indiscriminately entangling all forms of marine life, causing death by suffocation and all the while disintegrating into microplastics (<5mm) into the marine environment that gets into the food chain.

Purchasing Power

If conscious consumers stop buying seafood altogether the problem gets worse, since the industry is only left supplying indifferent consumers that buy the cheapest products with higher plastic pollution rates.

Reduce Plastic Pollution

All fisheries must take proactive measures to minimise and offset their contributions to marine pollution.

Reduce Gear Abandonment, Loss, or Discard at sea

All fishing vessels should employ measures to minimise instances and quantities of gear loss, abandonment or discard at sea.

Report Lost Gear

Lost fishing gears must be reported and fishing operators held accountable for their contributions to marine pollution.


Inequity is a systemic feature of the current ocean economy.

The biosphere, upon which humanity depends, is being altered to an unparalleled degree across all spatial scales. Biodiversity – the diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems – is declining faster than at any time in human history. A million species of plants and animals are facing extinction, many within decades, unless action is taken to tackle the drivers of biodiversity loss.

We rely on biodiversity for our survival, but our activities are the primary cause of huge declines. In the ocean, fishing is the activity that drives the greatest loss of biodiversity. Many industrial tuna fisheries use some of the most destructive fishing gears in terms of their impacts on endangered, threatened, and protected species such as sharks, turtles, seabirds, and marine mammals – as well as on the broader ecosystem. Not only are industrial tuna fisheries responsible for huge impacts on biodiversity, but they are also some of the biggest polluters in terms of plastics ending up in the ocean.

When we consider the fact that many of these industrial fisheries have been built on the back of harmful fisheries subsidies and are still benefitting from capacity enhancing subsidies such as vessel construction and fuel subsidies, it becomes clear how difficult it is for small-scale tuna fisheries to compete with these fisheries. 

This relates to their access to fishing grounds and fishing rights, and to their access to markets; access which is rarely equitably distributed.

Inequity is a systemic feature of the current ocean economy. It is embedded in existing political and economic systems, the result of historical legacies and prevailing norms. This inequity has brought global environmental challenges and negative effects on human well-being. Many of the benefits of marine resources are accumulated by a few, while most of the negative impacts that accompany the development and exploitation of these resources are borne by the most vulnerable. This is particularly concerning when we consider the need to ensure equal access to fishing opportunities and markets for small-scale fisheries. Although this campaign looks at this from the perspective of tuna fisheries, it is obvious that these issues are also very relevant for other small-scale fisheries.

A sustainable, equitable ocean economy should protect human rights, improve human well-being, stimulate inclusion and gender equity, and prioritise recognition, diversity, and equal access to resources to provide fair opportunities consistent with sustainable development.

However, human rights abuses frequently occur in offshore, industrial tuna fisheries. The fact that the denial of basic human rights, including modern slavery, is tolerated in supply chains which are given sustainability accreditation by certification schemes is inexcusable.

Thriving coastal areas, a resilient deep ocean, abundant nature and protected high seas will help sustain all humankind and support the culture and well-being of Indigenous peoples and coastal communities. A healthy ocean is fundamental to a healthy planet and makes a hopeful future for current and future generations possible. We must do better! Business-as-usual is no longer acceptable. We need to shift towards SDG-aligned, nature-positive fisheries.

what can we do?

We think tuna fishing needs to be radically rethought and the status quo of industrial fisheries disrupted in support of more small-scale, socially, and environmentally responsible fisheries that can contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals. Leaving no one behind!

With this initiative we are launching a long-running campaign, forming a coalition of like-minded organisations who want to see more radical change to the tuna fishing sector, stepping away from profit-driven industrial fisheries – towards environmentally and socially responsible fisheries that put coastal communities and environmental sustainability first.


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Contact us

You can contact us via email at  join@reimaginetuna.com