Global Tuna Alliance formed to advance sustainability goals and push RFMOs to reform

A group of companies representing multiple levels of the tuna supply chain have joined together to launch a new alliance that will seek to improve tuna sustainability, raise respect for the human rights of fishermen and prevent illegally caught tuna from reaching the market.

The Global Tuna Alliance, which was announced 2 October, is open to retailers, food service companies, suppliers, and brands. It will leverage the power of the supply chain to compel change in fisheries, including pushing for reforms at Regional Fishery Management Organizations (RFMOs).

All the companies that are part of the alliance are expected to source tuna from fisheries that are certified by eco-labels benchmarked by the Global Seafood Sustainability Initiative or from fisheries that are part of comprehensive fishery improvement projects. Partner companies so far include Ahold Delhaize, Asda, Coop UK, M&S, Metro, New England Seafoods International, Princes, Sainsburys, Tesco, Waitrose, and World Wise Foods.

"It's about convening that collaborative power of the market," Tom Pickerell, the executive director of the new alliance, told SeafoodSource. "These companies have a voice … It's using market power to influence the decision makers and fisheries managers, which individual companies would struggle to do on their own."

New England Seafood, one of the largest tuna importers in the United Kingdom, played an instrumental role in founding the alliance, with the belief that a more collaborative effort is needed to convince decision makers to protect tuna stocks, according to Cassie Leisk, the head of sustainability at the company.

"Markets have a key role to play in influencing the seafood industry and the supply chains that we work with to achieve a more sustainable status," Leisk told SeafoodSource. "Pre-competitive collaboration through the Global Tuna Alliance will allow responsible businesses to join forces and use our collective voice to strengthen the message to the decision makers who are responsible for protecting the precious resources of our oceans. This is, of course, critical to the long-term viability of global seafood supply chains.

Because it is such a high value commodity, tuna is uniquely vulnerable to sustainability, traceability, and human rights problems: In 2014, The Pew Charitable Trusts estimated total global catches for the top seven most commercially important tuna species were worth USD 42.2 billion (EUR 38.5 billion).

"A lot of the fishing takes place on the high seas, which means it's over the horizon and it's out of the EEZ of a country that may have good monitoring or surveillance," Pickerell said. "The supply chains are very complex. There's transshipment so the fish can go on the mother ship or to the processing hub. There's plenty of opportunities for unscrupulous actors who engage in IUU issues."

In the Pacific Ocean alone, 306,440 metric tons (MT) of tuna worth USD 616 million (EUR 562 million) come from fishing that is illegal, unreported, or unregulated, according to the alliance.

The alliance is registered as the Dutch legal entity Stichting and was formed to deliver on the commitments of the Tuna 2020 Traceability Declaration, which was signed by 66 companies, including major retailers and seafood processors and was supported by six national governments and 21 civil society organizations. The alliance and will aim to secure commitments from retailers on transparency in the tuna supply chain. Partners must sign a commitment to abide by the rules of governance in the alliance's charter, and must publicly endorse the alliance and participate in tuna sustainability initiatives.

Companies that are part of the alliance will be expected to track key data elements through their supply chains and adopt improved import controls to ensure fish are traced from the moment they're taken out of the ocean, as well as adopt stringent policies to expose and eliminate forced labor and human rights abuses in tuna supply chains. That transparency and accountability in the supply chain are necessary to advance sustainability, according to the alliance.

The alliance will focus on improving governance at the RFMOs, especially by implementing comprehensive harvest strategies for tuna fisheries in their regions. Harvest strategies need to be informed by a proper scientific assessment, with advice based on data, Pickerell said.

"That's an absolute basic of fisheries management that they just don't have," Pickerell said. "That's absolutely the key thing and that's one of the key things for the (alliance) is getting comprehensive harvest strategies in place."

Image courtesy of Global Tuna Alliance 


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