sustainble-tuna web

The Maldives tuna fishermen typically rely on pole and line

Waitrose has warned against boycotting Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna, branding the move “fundamentally and morally wrong”.

Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna is one of the world’s most overfished stocks and scientists have warned it is in danger of complete collapse by 2026.

The imminent risk has spurred action among food and drink companies, with Tesco announcing last month it would stop sourcing tuna from the region unless an effective recovery plan was put in place, while Princes pledged to cut its sourcing by half compared to 2017 levels.

But Waitrose confirmed it would not boycott Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna as it believes it would be “fundamentally and morally wrong”.

“It is easy to walk away from a fishery when faced with issues such as the perceived failure of tuna management at an international level, but we believe that is not always the best way to protect fish populations or the communities that depend on them,” it said in a statement on Thursday.

“Instead, we believe in working collaboratively with the fishers, suppliers, governments, NGOs and other stakeholders to use our sourcing influence and corporate responsibility leadership to demand improvements are made to the management of the fishery.”

Waitrose’s announcement came in support of a statement released by the Maldivian government on Twitter claiming retailers’ recent calls for a “non-differentiated” boycott of Indian Ocean yellowfin were “unfair and unwarranted”.

The letter set out five steps the Maldives has agreed to take to try and rebuild the stock. They include entering a fisheries improvement program (FIP) by December 2020 and working with “key fishing nations” to revise the current resolution on rebuilding the stock.

It said the current practice adopted by the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), the fishery’s management board, of “establishing ad-hoc stock rebuilding measures is a risky path that should be avoided at all costs”.

Maldivian skipjack tuna fished using pole and line is sustainably certified by the MSC although this has not been extended to yellowfin. The Maldives government is calling for a pre-assessment process to try and acquire the status.