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Dolphin Friendly Pet Food

Dolphin Friendly Pet Food

Scampers are constantly reviewing the products that we offer to our customers.  As one of the UK’s leading independent pet food retailers we feel it is part of duty to ensure that everything we offer for sale is ethically sourced.

In our view the continuance of the tuna fisheries is completely unsustainable as not only are the dolphins and other by catch (such as endangered turtles) being severely harmed but the tuna are themselves being completely wiped out by indiscriminate fishing methods.

We are now putting enormous pressure on all our suppliers of tuna based pet food to make certain that they are sourcing from dolphin friendly companies. You will notice instore that we will be removing from sale any tuna based pet foods should we not be convinced that the manufacturer is following the strictest of guidelines.

This article was instigated by ourselves and is making very big news within our industry. We intend to discontinue any tuna based pet foods within the Scampers if the supplier cannot guarantee safe and sustainable fishing practices which we are beginning to believe is probably not possible.

Our thanks go to Pet Product Marketing for their permission to reprint this article and to Greenpeace for the use of much of their research and hard work in bringing the horrors of the tuna industry to the worlds’ attention.

Dolphin Friendly Pet Food Published By Pet Product Marketing June 2009 The UK’s top pet trade industry journal.

Is the tuna-based petfood you sell truly dolphin-friendly? What about the manufacturers who supply you? Can they prove any claims they make?

Environmentally-aware customers are increasingly asking these questions. They are savvy about the food they eat, and want to make sure they are feeding their pets sustainably, too. More importantly, as fish stocks dwindle, should we be selling tuna-based foods at all?

‘Dolphin-friendly’ labels do not appear on all petfood brands. Yet how can you be sure those declared ‘dolphin-friendly’ really meet recognised regulations?  From PPM’s investigations, it seems too easy to escape accountability. While there are strict international regulation schemes, signing up to them is voluntary.  The Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association (PFMA), whose 54 members make up most of the industry, admits that although these members sign a code of practice to use fisheries which protect dolphins and other sea creatures, it’s merely a matter of trust.

Spokeswoman Nicole Harrison told us: “The PFMA have no policing powers, however, there is a strong expectation that members will follow our guidelines. “We have guidelines in a number of areas and are soon to agree a guide to good communication on labelling and claims.”

Sustainable fishing?

The international authorities on dolphin friendly status are the Earth Island Institute (EII) and the Marine Stewardship.  The ocean’s tuna stocks are dangerously low and conservation activists say not all dolphin-friendly labels are justified.  Must the industry change forever, asks Joy Harris.  Council (MSC), which, award accreditation, only when strict criteria are met. Yet Greenpeace remain alarmed at the needless deaths of thousands of other sea creatures caught accidentally.

In its report Tinned Tuna’s Hidden Catch last year, Greenpeace maintains: “A dolphin-friendly label is not a guarantee of sustainably fished tuna. Many fishing practices labelled dolphin-friendly still result in the catch of a host of non-target species, known as by-catch, including turtles, sharks, rays and juvenile tuna.

“Most tinned tuna are caught using fish aggregation devices (FADs), which use floating objects to encourage them to gather in locations and then be scooped up in huge nets known as purse seines. But FADs do not just lure the tuna that fishermen want. On average, every time a FAD is used, for every 10kg of catch, 1kg will be an unwanted wide variety of other species.

Research from 2005 concluded that the total by-catch from FADs amounts to 100,000 tons every year. “FADs act as death traps for young tuna. According to the University of Hawaii, FADs fished by purse  seine nets are considered a major contributor towards pushing yellowfin and bigeye stocks towards depletion. It is not only environmentally destructive, but also short-sighted in economic terms.

“There is growing evidence that FADS disrupt the life cycles of even those tuna not caught. In May 2008, scientists reported that FADs appear to pull tuna and other fish from their migratory routes, causing them to become undernourished.   Despite all this, purse seine fishing with FADs has expanded considerably in recent years and accounts  for about 70% of reported tuna catches.” Long line fishing can also be a problem. This involves setting  but a line up to 100km to which shorter lines of baited hooks are added. Measures can be used to lessen its impact, but it remains responsible for large numbers of marine life deaths, including seabirds.

Greenpeace have called on the industry to stop using FADs. Pole and line fishing is the most dolphin-friendly option. They want all purse seine and long line vessels to have observers on board to ensure all possible means are used to reduce by-catch.

“The solutions exist but we must act now. Time and tuna are running out,” continues the report.

Looking to Change.

The WWF charity believes the pet food  industry is starting to realise it has a role in saving the planet and predicts a change in ingredients is inevitable. Spokeswoman Debbie Chapman told PPM: “A number of companies are becoming aware of the risks associated with species endangered or red-listed.

These not only include negative PR and consumer perceptions on sustainability, but also implications of using human grade as pet food and unsustainability of raw materials over time. Many pet food companies are beginning to look at their supply chains and evaluate what is known about the sustainability of different inputs, species by species. It is also likely that pet food manufacturers will reduce the use of high-end carnivores (tuna and swordfish) and move to lower trophic level fish, (omnivores or herbivores).

“It is also likely that they will increasingly integrate aquaculture products which have steady, year-round production and faster processing. “The issue is just understanding better what the implications are. For example, much pet food is made from co-products and bi-products of food-grade seafood processing. Without pet food companies, this material would either be fed to other animals or pose a huge waste disposal issue. Much pet food is made from fish meal and fish oil that would otherwise be an ingredient in feed for other animals.

“The issue going forward is how much seafood product is there, from the wild and aquaculture, and what kinds and how much should be available for pet food. The answers will clearly vary from one region to another but, at the end of the day, pet food should probably not reduce the food available to humans and, like human food, should be produced sustainably.”

Time to Lead the Way.

It could change the face of the pet food industry and Piers Smart, owner of Scampers pet superstore near Ely, Cambridgeshire, thinks that is no bad thing. He is putting manufacturers on the spot and reviewing the pet food he stocks after seeing at first hand the horrors of unscrupulous fishing methods. He is also concerned about the wider issue of endangered fish stocks.

“We are seriously considering removing tuna-based, so-called ‘dolphin-friendly’ products from our shelves unless we are satisfied that they can be verified,” he says. “I am not sure what some manufacturers mean by dolphin-friendly and would hope that every one I deal with can justify these claims for ethical reasons rather than for marketing reasons.”

Piers, an avid deep sea fly fisherman, has seen on trips abroad what can happen during tuna fishing and was once almost entirely ensnared in a yellowfin net in Costa Rica. “We were fishing in the middle of a purse seine net from a Panamanian registered ship and what they were doing was certainly not dolphin-friendly,” he recalls. “I saw three baby dolphins and a turtle dead afterwards.”

‘Raping the seas’  Piers added: “Yellowfin tuna live naturally with dolphins. The small fish can’t keep up, so they tend to swim beneath the dolphins for protection. If dolphins are caught, the baby tuna probably will be too. Baby dolphins also get split up from and lose contact with their parents, which threatens their survival.

Is it necessary? Do we need to be raping the seas for human-grade fish to put into pet food? It’s time to take a hard look at what goes into it - 99% of animals are fine with chicken, for instance.  “Maybe the pet trade has got to start setting standards rather than being told what to do by animal welfare and environmentalists. I am asking my own questions because I want to know if manufacturers are genuinely interested.

Do they really make checks or are they just paying lip service?  "Our customers are asking ethical questions and we want to give them answers about what we’re selling. Some people in the industry do care, but if I cannot get satisfactory answers, I will reduce space for those products and they will disappear. I hope other retailers will start asking questions, too.”

Who sets the Standards?

The Earth Island Institute.  This body lists approved dolphin-safe importers, distributors, retailers and agents who must ensure:

  1. No intentional chasing, netting or encirclement.
  2. No use of drift gill nets to catch tuna.
  3. No accidental killing or serious injury to dolphins during net sets.
  4. No mixing of dolphin-safe and dolphin-deadly tuna in boat wells, processing or storage facilities.
  5. Each journey in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean by vessels of 400 gross tons and above must have an independent observer attesting to compliance.
  6. All processing, storage and trans-shipment facilities and procurement records related to buying, processing, storage, transport, and sale of tuna must be available for independent monitoring.
  7. ‘Dolphin-safe’ companies must apply EII policies to all aspects of operations and related subsidiaries.
  8. EII and the Dolphin Safe/Fair Trade Campaign encourage tuna fishermen and tuna companies to reduce by-catch and release alive feasible, non target species caught in purse seine nets.

These standards have been adopted by about 300 tuna companies, canneries, brokers, import associations, retail store and restaurant chains. Town & Country Pet foods is the only UK pet food manufacturer to sign the agreement.

More info: email  Marine Stewardship Council.  Based in the UK, this is a world-leading certification and eco-labelling authority for sustainable  seafood. Only fisheries join, but those using them as suppliers (including seafood manufacturers and restaurants) can display the MSC eco-label badge. Assessed fisheries receive a five-year certificate.  More info:

PFMA.  This body asks members to work with suppliers in agreeing requirements to eliminate the risk to marine animals from certain fishing practices. These include provisions that members will...

  1. Only buy tuna caught by long line, pole and line or acceptable purse-seine methods (no FADs).
  2. Refuse to buy tuna caught by setting on or by high seas draft netting.
  3. Not contract any tuna cannery or agent unless all aspects of its operations comply with these terms. 
  4. Require accurate documentation to be maintained such as the origin of tuna, type and name of fishing vessel, date and method of catch.
  5. Carry out specific programmes of monitoring and inspection.

Proud to be Leading the Way.

Peter Parkinson , Marketing Director of Town & Country Petfoods which produce the HiLife brand of cat and dog foods, is proud of his company’s status as the only UK petfood organisation registered on the Earth Island Institute list. He  explained the comprehensive checks they make.

“To protect dolphins at every stage of the tuna fishing process, the world’s largest tuna producers have committed to the standards set by and the continuous monitoring of the Earth Island Institute,” he told PPM. “To maintain our status, we buy tuna only from Earth Island verified ‘dolphin-safe’ fishing and processing companies. Our suppliers maintain fully comprehensive traceability records for all batches of tuna purchased, right down to such minute details as the vessel’s name, quantity of catch, catching area and its captain.  Every HiLife product containing tuna comes with a cast-iron guarantee that it is dolphin friendly.”

Although not registered with the Institute, Nestlé Purina Europe (Felix and Purina brands) stress their sustainability credentials. “We use 16 species of fish and shellfish by-products originating from both wild-caught and farmed sources,” said a spokesman. “NPPE fully accept responsibility that fish ingredients for our products are sourced taking into account the impact of the method of fishing and production on the environment and long-term sustainability of the fishery. “NPPE undertakes that all fish by-products are derived from fish wild caught or farmed from responsible sustainable managed legal fisheries under the protection of EU and/or national governments. Sourcing is reviewed for each species at six-monthly intervals.

It is committed policy that fish by products assessed as the most vulnerable will not be sourced. “NPPE seeks to support and source by-products from suppliers to achieve long-term sustainability, implementing best practice fishing methods for wild fisheries and best practice management for farmed fish. “Full traceability from catch to usage must be provided by suppliers. Suppliers have duly signed our specifications that include the statement: ‘The tuna must not have been caught using technologies that involve the knowing or unintentional taking or harassment of dolphins, whales or other cetaceans.”

Article Published June 2009 (resource PPM).  Photographs Supplied Greenpeace