Some of the world’s biggest retailers are calling on over 30 Pacific-based tuna fisheries to ensure compliance with Marine Stewardship Council certification requirements ahead of a key regional meeting next year.
In a letter drafted last month by the Global NGO Tuna Forum on behalf of 112 supply chain businesses and supermarkets, including Aldi, Costco, Tesco and Walmart, fisheries in the Western and Central Pacific were urged to “accelerate action to develop comprehensive harvest strategies across all tuna stocks” to prevent the loss of MSC certification.
The forum’s letter warned that 27 fisheries operating under the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), an intergovernmental body, “are at high risk of suspension from the MSC” if harvest strategies and harvest control rules are not finalised by December 2022, when a WCPFC meeting is due to be held. Five other fisheries in the region are seeking MSC certification.
The certification covers fisheries responsible for around half the world’s tuna catch and is aimed at reassuring consumers that the tuna they buy has been sustainably fished.
Amid long-running concerns about over-fishing and sustainability of stocks, the United Nations in April estimated around a third of global tuna fishing to be “biologically unsustainable”.
The commission and its members need “to make significant progress this year and next in establishing robust management measures for implementation”, according to the letter’s signatories.
Chris Shearlock, fish sustainability manager at Princes said the company was “deeply concerned” about the prospect of Western Pacific fisheries being stripped of certification.
US retail behemoth Walmart asked that the fisheries “take necessary action” ahead of the meeting next year and to “fully implement sustainable management measures”.
Tom Pickerell, executive director of the Global Tuna Alliance, a group of retailers and suppliers, warned that members “may be forced to review their sourcing policies” if the Pacific-based fisheries lost their MSC status.
“Retailers and supply chain companies have made public commitments to the sustainable sourcing of seafood,” he said, hinting at fears of a consumer backlash if retailers were to sell uncertified Pacific tuna.
The forum’s letter followed a similar July warning by the MSC that 22 fisheries, responsible for almost three-quarters of the world’s certified tuna catch, faced having their status revoked if the WCPFC failed to meet the December deadline.