Friendlier Fishing

There are many ways to catch fish. Some techniques only catch the intended species while others also catch unintended species resulting in injury and death to many sea creatures, some of which are already endangered. This is referred to as by-catch. There are five principle kinds of fishing methods:

  1. Pole and Line Fishing
  2. Troll Fishing
  3. Purse Seine Fishing
  4. Long-Line Fishing
  5. Trawl Fishing



There are two main methods used to catch tuna in commercial fisheries that Wild Planet endorses as “best practice” methods: pole and line, and trolling.


Pole and line fishing has been practiced for centuries in several different parts of the world. The method involves attracting a school of tuna to the side of a “bait-boat” by throwing live sardines and anchovies overboard.  This creates a tuna “feeding frenzy” and fish are hauled out of the water, one-by-one, using pole and line with an artificial lure attached.  The size of tuna caught this way is almost exclusively younger migratory tuna that are also lower in mercury than the older tuna caught deeper with long-lines.



“Trolling” means to catch fish by towing a lure or baited hook behind a slow-moving boat. In the albacore fishery, trollers attach ten to twenty fishing lines to the vessel’s outriggers. Attached to the end of each line is a feathered barbless jig. Jigs are shaped to look like squid or a baitfish and come in a wide variety of colors. The jigs are trained in the water behind a moving boat, and surface swimming albacore will bite the jig and be caught.

To learn more, please refer to the Oregon State University study: OSU Mercury Study.


Now, what are the two harvest methods that Wild Planet considers as environmentally inferior for tuna and which are not in compliance with optimum conservation of marine resources? Purse seines with FADs and Long-Line Fishing.

Purse Seines

Purse seines are large nets that can measure over 2 km long and 200 meters deep. They are deployed in a circular form around a school of tuna, hanging vertically in the water column.  Once the fish are completely encircled by the net, it is drawn tight at the bottom, like a purse, to prevent the fish from escaping below.

What’s the main problem with this method? Well, if these nets are deployed on a mature school of tuna, there is nothing wrong with it as the tuna are mostly all larger sized and there is minimal by-catch of other species.

But this deployment on free-swimming schools is the exception. Most purse seine tuna fishing is done with the use of FADs (Fish Aggregating Devices). These are radio-beaconed floating devices that attract any and most fish swimming freely in the open ocean. The tiny tuna and small fish of all kinds are attracted to the “cover” provided by the floating object; then larger fish are attracted to the small fish grouped up there and schools of tuna also stop in for a “looksee.” In addition, sharks, turtles and fish of all kinds congregate here and all meet their demise when purse seining is utilized. This FAD purse seine fishing results in very high by-catch mortality and discard of non-target species and undersize early juvenile tunas caught prematurely. We call this “tuna Infanticide” and it prevents the additional yield of hundreds of millions of pounds of tuna (each fish would have weighed more if allowed to grow first).  That’s a billion dollars’ worth of tuna and a lot of lost meals to the people of this planet!

Long-Line Fishing

Long-line fishing is the most common method used to catch albacore worldwide. Long-lines attract a variety of open ocean swimmers — essentially, whatever bites the bait — such as endangered sea turtles, sharks and other fish, resulting in more wasteful bycatch mortality.  Also, as the line is deployed into the water, seabirds dive for the bait, are ensnared on the hooks and drown.

Long-lines are used to catch the high-value fish that are marketed as sashimi, historically in the Japanese market but also increasingly in North America and Europe.


In most cases, canned tuna labeling does not include information on the catch method. If it is absent, you can likely assume the worst. BUT WILD PLANET SOURCES TUNA CAUGHT ONLY BY TROLLING OR POLE AND LINE. There is virtually no bycatch (<0.1%) associated with the trolling or pole and line techniques, which are regarded as the best fishing methods for tuna, a fact worth remembering when you buy.  Pole and troll caught tuna are considered the very best method for sustainability by a consensus of many Non-Government Environmental Organizations (ENGOs).

Greenpeace has also evaluated Wild Planet tuna products and has rated them as a top brand for sustainable sourcing policies.

For a more detailed discussion of the history of Wild Planet’s sourcing policy, please see the document: Wild Planet Procurement Policy 2.2017 and to learn more about the dangers of purse seine and long-line trolling, Go to Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Seafood Guides.



The use of purse seines or drift and set nets as fishing methods are successful and sustainable catch methods for certain schools of fish.

The fisheries Wild Planet uses to catch our salmon have outstanding management and make sure they are only harvesting salmon that can be yielded. The pink salmon are caught via purse seine operations while the sockeye salmon are caught via drift and set net operations.

Wild Planet uses similar purse seine methods to catch our sardines, anchovies, mackerel and yellowtail. We use single species targeted purse-seine fishing methods, which virtually eliminate by-catch of other species while also benefiting the overall marine ecosystem.

Fishing for Change.
Sustainable fishing methods minimizes the by-catch of millions of pristine sea creatures.