Princes MSC tuna

The supplier aims to start by increasing the percentage of MSC-certified tuna it sells from 20 to 25% by the end of next year

Princes has announced an “ambitious” plan to source and sell only certified sustainable tuna in the UK by 2025.

The supplier aims to increase the percentage of Marine Stewardship Council-certified tuna it sells from 20 to 25% by the end of next year, before successive doublings to 50% in 2024 and 100% by the end of 2025.

Reaching the target would increase five-fold the amount of certified, sustainably-caught tuna sold in the UK, for a total of 75 million cans of or 11,000 tonnes of fish, Princes said.

Group director for seafood Neil Bohannon said the Liverpool-headquartered supplier was “committed to supporting the long-term sustainability of tuna stocks”.

Despite the arguably tight three-year timeframe, Bohannon said he was “confident” Princes would succeed through “continued investment and engagement with stakeholders, fisheries, NGOs and other industry players”.

The target will be achieved by deploying new MSC-certified fleets, with many fisheries previously engaged in Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs) now said by Princes to be “maturing and meeting MSC standards”.

The commitment earned the company praise from George Clark, MSC UK & Ireland programme director, who said it had showed “great leadership” by making the announcement.

“Princes are actively supporting UK tuna shoppers that are looking for sustainable products, and who will now have more certified sustainable canned tuna options than ever before,” Clark added.

Princes said in March it had reached a target of only sourcing from fisheries that are MSC-certified, undertaking a FIP, working towards MSC certification or from what it said were verified pole and line sources that did not use fish aggregation devices, which are floating objects designed to attract groupings of fish close to the surface.

Although worldwide sales of MSC-labelled tuna topped 100,000 tonnes for the first time last year, according to MSC data, UK sales were heading in the opposite direction, with the volume of MSC-certified tuna products sold in the country down 12% on 2020.

But Princes’ statement of ambition, would, according to Tom Pickerell, executive director of the Global Tuna Alliance, put pressure on other suppliers “to ensure that tuna products can be sourced from fisheries that employ science-based management plans and measures to ensure that impacts of fisheries on the environment are acceptable”.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization categorises most tuna as “fully exploited”, meaning no scope to increase catch sizes.

In July, the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation, which lists Princes as a “participant,” published a report on the global tuna fishing industry, which it said showed 65% of tuna stocks “at a healthy level of abundance”, with 13% deemed “overfished” and 22% “at an intermediate level”.