112 retailers, tuna suppliers urge WCPFC to adopt tuna harvest strategies
More than one hundred companies in the tuna supply chain have sent a letter to the heads of delegations of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), urging them to develop and adopt harvest strategies across all the tuna stocks the regional fishery management organization oversees.
Walmart, Whole Foods, Costco, Lidl, Aldi, Tesco, Target, and Kroger were among the signors of the letter, which said harvest control strategies are necessary to ensure the RFMO’s tuna fisheries retain their Marine Stewardship Council certifications.
“There are 27 GSSI-recognized MSC certified tuna fisheries in the region, as well as an additional five fisheries currently seeking MSC certification, representing over two million tons of certified and potentially certified WCPFC tuna within the supply chain each year,” the letter states. “These certifications are at high risk of suspension from the MSC program by their independent assessors if the WCPFC is unable to complete its workplans related to harvest strategies and harvest control rules by December 2022.”
The majority of the companies signing the letter are partners of either the Global Tuna Alliance, the Tuna Protection Alliance, the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation, FishWise, or WWF.
“Forty-nine percent of seafood consumers recognize the blue MSC label. If this label is lost on tuna products from Western Central Pacific fisheries, over two million tonnes of tuna could no longer be sold as MSC-certified,” Global Tuna Alliance Executive Director Tom Pickerell said. “Retailers and supply chain companies have made public commitments to the sustainable sourcing of seafood. If the WCPFC fails to accelerate action, many retailers may be forced to review their sourcing policies.”
The WCPFC plans to implement new strategies for skipjack and albacore by December 2022, and add harvest strategies for yellowfin and bigeye a year later. This strategies must be adopted by the WCPFC at its December 2021 meeting to allow the region’s MSC-certified fisheries to keep their certification. According to the Marine Stewardship Council, tuna caught in theWestern Central Pacific Ocean makes up half of the global tuna catch. If the WCPFC doesn’t meet the final deadline of December 2022 for adopting harvest control rules, the equivalent of up to two million metric tons of annual tuna catches could lose their certifications.
“WCPFC’s leadership is critical in accelerating actions that advance robust harvest strategies and rebuild ocean abundance and diversity,” Bumble Bee Seafood Senior Vice President of Global Corporate Social Responsibility Leslie Hushka said. “Everyone with a strategic interest in the tuna industry must continue to work together to protect our oceans for the planet and the billions of people who rely on seafood for sustenance and the millions who rely on the fishing industry for their livelihood.”