Bumble Bee teams up with MSC, WWF


James Wright, Senior Editor

Published on
April 22, 2013

Bumble Bee Foods of San Diego will soon launch a line of canned seafood products, starting with tuna, that will be the first products in the United States to bear both the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) eco-label and the world-famous World Wildlife Fund (WWF) panda logo.

Chris Lischewski, president and CEO of Bumble Bee, made the announcement on Tuesday at a press event just outside of the European Seafood Exposition in Brussels. He later sat down at the SeafoodSource and SeaFood Business booth (Hall 6, Stand 840) with for a one-on-one interview about the initiative.

The Wild Selections® line will launch late in the second quarter of this year, said Lischewski, who added that 13 cents for every can sold in the United States will fund WWF’s efforts to protect marine life and expand sustainable fishing practices globally. The goal, he said, is USD 1 million.

“If we come up short, we’ll make up the difference,” said Lischewski.

The first products will include MSC-certified albacore and light, or skipjack, tuna. Future products will include MSC-certified salmon, shrimp, clams and sardines. The tuna will be sourced from the West Coast of the United States and the Fiji longline fishery. The skipjack will come from the Maldives pole-and-line fishery.

“That may expand as the [Parties to the Nauru Agreement] countries open up and we’ll monitor what happens with MSC-certified fisheries,” said Lischewski, who has served as the chairman of the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation for the past four years. He estimates that less than 5 percent of the global tuna catch is certified as sustainable and well managed. “The challenge is, will boats fish, and will they meet the MSC criteria that Pacifical is asking for. The application is made by Pacifical. So you can’t just fish there and sell your own MSC-certified fish. It has to be sold through Pacifical.”

Lischewski said it’s tough to tell what to expect from the initiative. “Our market power can enable us to work with fisheries and fishermen to change practices. But we need the political power at the [Regional Fishery Management Organization] level to actually pass and enforce policy. The political will doesn’t exist at that level. Ultimately we’re going to need consumers to bring political pressure onto governments to take the necessary action at the RFMO level. I would argue that the Panda is more recognized in the U.S. than the MSC.”

“The introduction of the MSC-certified Wild Selections product line demonstrates Bumble Bee’s deep commitment to sustainable seafood,” said Bill Fox, vice president and managing director of fisheries at World Wildlife Fund. “This new line provides consumers the confidence that their seafood was sustainably caught as well as the opportunity to contribute to improving the health of the world’s oceans by supporting WWF’s efforts to conserve marine life and secure sustainable fisheries.”

“Global seafood markets are increasingly demanding credible, independent certification and full traceability of their seafood choices. This trend is not going to go away,” said MSC CEO Rupert Howes. “MSC provides that assurance, rewards sustainable fishing practices and encourages improvements in the way our oceans are fished where required.”

The Wild Selections® branded line will be managed outside of Bumble Bee’s core franchise and business structure and, over the next five years, a portion of sales received from the line will support WWF’s global fisheries and marine conservation efforts.

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