Clover Leaf Fishing Gear for Harvesting Tuna
Clover Leaf fishing gear has been evolving in an effort to maximize the sustainability of the fishing industry. Some methods and fishing gear that were widely accepted in the past have fallen under scrutiny due to the impact on fish populations, the associated bycatch levels, and the overall impact on marine ecosystems. This is especially true for tuna fishing methods due to concerns over the long-term sustainability of different tuna species and the health of the global stocks.
Purse seine fishing vessels are responsible for over 60% of all tuna caught annually (ISSF, 2014). Purse seine fishing involves the use of a net that is set vertically into the water. Purse seine fishing often involves the use of FADs (fish aggregating devices) to improve effectiveness. FADs are defined as floating objects – natural or man-made - that are used to attract fish (Tuna Sustainability, 2010). When a school of tuna is spotted under a FAD, the fishing vessel then moves the net to encircle the school of fish. This method of tuna fishing uses a targeted approach to efficiently harvest tuna in a shorter period of time. All of Clover Leaf’s Skipjack and Yellowfin (also referred to as ‘light’) tuna are fished using this method (The Clover Leaf Seafoods Family, 2014a).
Is Purse Seine Fishing on FADs Sustainable?
Purse seine fishing of tuna using FADs has come under criticism for being commercially unsustainable based on erroneous assumptions that this method leads to overfishing (Kennedy, 2014) and high bycatch (non-targeted marine life that is caught incidentally) rates. These assumptions are unfounded and accordingly, calling for a ban on this fishing gear would be a mistake. Studies have actually shown that there is no obvious correlation between the amount of a tuna caught by purse seine fishing on FADs and whether a stock is currently in a state of being overfished. In fact, the same study has shown that levels of non-tuna bycatch from FAD fishing are comparable or lower than other fishing methods (Laurent Dagorn, 2012).
The level of unintended catch from purse seine fishing on FADs actually varies greatly depending on the time of year and the location where fishing occurs. Bycatch levels are actually quite low in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean where the largest percentage of canned tuna is harvested (The Clover Leaf Seafoods Family, 2014b).
Not only is purse seine fishing on FADs effective, this method also uses the lowest average amount of fuel per live weight tonne of tuna landings, thus generating a smaller carbon footprint (Parker, 2012). Furthermore, it does not require the exploitation of bait fisheries to land tuna.
By monitoring and managing FAD fishing, this method could be the most environmentally responsible (Laurent Dagorn, 2012).
Improving the Sustainability of Clover Leaf’s Tuna Fishing Gear
While Clover Leaf sources tuna caught on FADs, it is continuously working through the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) to further reduce bycatch levels using this method, through established best practices and commitments to environmental responsibility. The International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) is a global organization composed of leading scientists, members of the tuna industry and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) – the world’s leading conservation organization. As a whole, the ISSF focuses on forwarding science-based initiatives for the long-term health of tuna stocks, reducing bycatch, and promoting ecosystem health.
The ISSF has undertaken efforts to significantly reduce bycatch in general, but in particular with purse seine fishing on FADs through their Bycatch Project. Since 2011, ISSF’s Bycatch Project has conducted globally coordinated cruises with fishing vessels and scientists to gain input to identify improvements within the tuna purse seine fishing industry, focusing on reducing the environmental impact of fishing for tuna with FADs. The research findings are used globally in skipper workshops, resulting in identifying preferred practices, new techniques, and enhanced technologies to minimize bycatch on FADs and improve tuna fisheries (Patterson, 2014). Findings from this project have already been implemented, for example, in the form of non-entangling nets for FAD fishing operations.
Clover Leaf is a founding member of the ISSF who is also working extensively to assess fishing gear and determine the best possible practices in order to continue working towards tuna sustainability, thus ensuring that families will be able to enjoy the benefits of healthy canned tuna for generations to come.
ISSF. (2014). Purse Seine. Retrieved October 1, 2014, from International Seafood Sustainability Foundation:
Kennedy, J. (2014). Overfishing. Retrieved October 15, 2014, from About.com:
Laurent Dagorn, K. H. (2012, October 3). Fishing with FADs – Good or Bad? Retrieved October 10, 2014, from ISSF:
Parker, D. P. (2012, March 12). ISSF Technical Report 2012-03: Fuel Consumption And Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Global Tuna Fisheries: A Preliminary Assessment . Retrieved October 15, 2014, from ISSF - Online Library:
Patterson, E. G. (2014, May 1). RESEARCHERS WORK TOWARD BYCATCH MITIGATION AMONGST AN ACTIVE CREW OF FISHERMEN… AND AMONGST THE SHARKS. Retrieved October 16, 2014, from
The Clover Leaf Seafoods Family. (2014a). Tuna School - How it's fished and processed. Retrieved October 30, 2014, from Clover Leaf Seafood School:
The Clover Leaf Seafoods Family. (2014b). FAQ - How much bycatch is caught using FADs. Retrieved October 1, 2014, from Clover Leaf:
Tuna Sustainability. (2010, December 23). Glossary: FAD. Retrieved October 1, 2014, from YouTube: