Some of the UK’s biggest retailers and best-known tuna brands are urging powerful fishing nations to strengthen the management of the world’s largest tuna fishery when the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) convenes next month in Bali, Indonesia. They want assurances that a number of crucial issues like overfishing and overcapacity will be addressed in the fishery, which is valued at more than $7 billion per year.
Leading retailers Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose, together with the pole-and-line tuna brands Fish4Ever and Fish Tales want governments to support the adoption of new conservation and management measures that will strengthen the framework for sustainable tuna fisheries in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.
“Through our sustainable seafood sourcing policy, we are engaging with all stages of the supply chain to identify where change is most needed and then helping to ensure that it is duly implemented. Canned tuna is such an important product – not just for our customers, but for consumers throughout the world – and it is imperative these species receive the careful management and protection that they deserve. We therefore want to see the policymakers at the forthcoming WCPFC meeting demonstrate they are fully focused on delivering a sustainable future by making certain the fishery is responsibly managed in line with the best practices,” says Hannah Macintyre, Fisheries and Aquaculture Manger at Marks & Spencer.
“Sustainability in seafood is a complex and multi-topic issue. It goes well beyond ensuring stocks are decently managed and exploited, which of course is important. Pole-and-line fishing helps maintain healthy fish stocks by being very selective, but it also keeps the right sort of jobs in larger numbers at sea. It is more participatory, democratic and could be an excellent tool for protecting and developing coastal communities worldwide. For us, pole-and-line tuna isn’t an option amongst many; it is the only correct choice,”says Charles Redfern, Founder of Fish4Ever.
The WCPFC Convention is an international fisheries agreement that seeks to address problems in the management of high seas fisheries resulting from unregulated fishing, excessive fleet capacity, vessel re-flagging to escape controls, by-catch, unreliable catch data and insufficient multilateral cooperation in respect to the conservation and management of tuna. However, governments have been accused of providing insufficient support to ensuring the sustainability of this region. As a result, bigeye tuna populations are down to 16% of un-fished levels and bluefin are at less than 5%.
All of the companies calling for major improvement today are members of the International Pole & Line Foundation (IPNLF) – a charity aimed at promoting tuna fisheries with minimal environmental impact and improving livelihoods in the coastal communities dependent upon these fisheries. An important part of IPNLF’s work involves connecting people and organisations that want to support the sustainable development of one-by-one fisheries. Its membership comprises a broad range of organisations and businesses involved in this supply chain. These members have proven to be active collaborators and are keen to see tuna stocks and marine ecosystems throughout the world given greater protection and support.
The average per capita consumption of canned tuna in the UK is 2kg, putting the country’s total consumption of the product in excess of 128 million kg annually. Since the UK does not have any tuna fisheries of its own, this significant market is entirely dependent upon imports.
“The UK is a world leader when it comes to sourcing sustainable tuna,” says Adam Baske, Policy and Advocacy Advisor at the IPNLF. “Working with retailers and brands that actively seek out the greenest and cleanest tuna can have real impacts on the water and be of significant benefit to the fishing communities themselves. It is testament to their engagement that they are prepared to call on governments to ensure the overall management of these fisheries is improved.”
He continues, “We are hoping these further calls of support will lead to tangible management improvements at this year’s WCPFC meeting. More sustainable management frameworks will benefit every country involved in this huge fishery, bring long-term returns to fishing communities, and minimise the risk of future fisheries collapse.
At this year’s Commission meeting, IPNLF will urge support for the following initiatives:
- Establishment of reference points and harvest control rules for all major tuna species that will avoid adverse impacts on small-scale and artisanal fishers and fish workers
- Adoption of rebuilding plans for overfished tuna stocks
- Improved data acquisition and reporting of target species and by-catch
- Improved data collection and regulation of fishing gears that negatively impact coastal communities, including drifting fish aggregating devices (dFADs)
- Adoption of measures that will effectively reduce by-catch and protect endangered, threatened, or protected species, including sharks, seabirds and turtles
IPNLF’s full position statement for this year’s WCPFC Commission meeting is available here.