Greece bans bottom trawling in MPAs; SFP report reveals decline in key reduction fisheries performance

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis I Photo courtesy of Alexandros Michailidis/Shutterstock
6 Min

SeafoodSource is closely following the sustainable seafood movement by compiling a regular round-up of sector updates about sustainability initiatives and certifications.

- Greece Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has banned bottom trawling in the country’s marine protected areas (MPAs), announcing the move at the Our Ocean Conference on 16 April. 

Greece will end the practice in its three national marine parks by 2026, including the largest in the East Mediterranean Sea, and across all protected ocean areas by 2030, National Geographic's Pristine Seas project said in a release. Greece is now the first European country to ban bottom trawling.

“This is a historic moment for conservation in Greece. We are deploying EUR 780 million [USD 849 million] to protect our diverse and unique marine ecosystems,” Mitsotakis said. “We are increasing the size of our marine protected areas by 80 percent, banning harmful fishing practices, and using new technologies to monitor and enforce the commitments we make here.”

Greece also announced its commitment to protecting 30 percent of its ocean by 2030. It will create the Ionian Marine National Park, covering about 12 percent of Greek waters, to protect sea mammals like sperm whales, Cuvier's beaked whales, striped dolphins, and endangered monk seals while also safeguarding important seabird habitats.

“This historic move – a first for Europe – brings the country one step closer to ensuring that its marine protected areas can deliver the full potential of their benefits, which range from protecting biodiversity and storing carbon to boosting the tourism and fishing industries,”  National Geographic Explorer in Residence and Pristine Seas Founder Enric Sala said. “The ocean floor is the world’s largest carbon storehouse. Leaving the seabed undisturbed is critical to global efforts to curb the climate crisis. Countries that are serious about keeping global temperatures at bay, conserving biodiversity, and keeping their fishing industries vibrant must join Greece in ending this outdated practice in MPAs.”

- The Global Tuna Alliance (GTA) announced Japanese wholesaler Usufukuhonten is its newest partner. 

Usufukuhonten holds deep roots in the fisheries sector dating back to 1882 and joins the GTA to improve sustainable tuna fishing efforts, the company said.

“Food is often the first and most crucial form of aid, highlighting the essential role our industry plays within the community," the company said in a release. "It is our responsibility to act and make impactful changes."

Shiogama City, Japan-based fish processing company Meiho also has been named a GTA partner. Japan is one of the largest consumers of tuna and the second-largest tuna fishing nation.

“We’re delighted that Meiho has demonstrated their commitment to a future of sustainable, socially responsible tuna fishing by joining forces with the Global Tuna Alliance. This is a major breakthrough for the GTA, which has been seeking to connect with seafood market players in Japan since its inception,” GTA Japan Outreach Officer Gunther Errhalt said in a release. “Meiho’s decision to join the GTA signifies that they are stalwart defenders of tuna, while simultaneously acting as a beacon to others in Japan, encouraging them to make their voice heard in the global supply chain. With Meiho at the forefront of this effort in Asia, I am confident that more Japanese members will follow suit. This will strongly motivate decision-makers across the region to attentively consider the market’s perspective.”

- The Global Salmon Initiative (GSI) published its 11th annual Sustainability Report, aiming to highlight the collaboration and transparency necessary to transform food systems. The report includes more than a decade's worth of data from 14 GSI members across several sustainability metrics.

“There is no hiding from the data. As a sector, we know now more than ever improvements need to be made, and we know they need to happen quickly and in a meaningful way,” GSI CEO Sophie Ryan said in a release. “GSI members recognize that the challenges they face are too big to overcome alone and that there is a benefit in working together and learning from one another. We continue to utilize the outcomes of the report to guide our work, find ways to reduce our footprint, and provide optimal welfare for the fish in our care.”

The report revealed that in 2023, 64 percent of GSI members' salmon production was Aquaculture Stewardship Council-certified and that there has been a 75 percent reduction in antibiotic use from its members since GSI's establishment in 2013.

“Farmed salmon has a unique opportunity to be at the forefront of aquaculture sustainability and innovation. If any aquaculture species has the resources and energy behind it, it’s salmon. Farmed salmon can be the leader in sorting out some of aquaculture’s biggest sustainability challenges,” The Nature Conservancy (TNC) Director of Global Aquatic Food Systems Robert Jones said. 

- Thai Union subsidiary John West, sold in Australia by J.R. Simplot Company, and tuna supply chain traceability and verification company Pacifical have exchanged data using the Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceability (GDST) protocol, according to a press release.

"Over the years, Simplot, in partnership with Pacifical, has made great progress on our commitment to responsible seafood sourcing practices, to the point that 100 percent of our skipjack tuna range is certified to the highest standard of sustainability for seafood,” Simplot Global Food Head of Sustainability Phoebe Dowling said. “Leading the GDST initiative as part of our long-term collaboration with Pacifical is a logical and beneficial next step in our pioneering approach to sustainability, and we are proud to be part of this pivotal moment in the seafood industry."

- The Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) released new reports showing a continued decline in the performance of key reduction fisheries for the sixth consecutive year. The reports, the most recent one of which was released 16 May, push the need for more active and long-term industry engagement to ensure proper fisheries management. 

Two additional fisheries have fallen into the “poorly managed” category of the reports: Chilean jack mackerel in the Peruvian waters of the Southeast Pacific and blue whiting in the Northeast Atlantic, which had previously improved in 2022. While most fisheries assessed remain reasonably well-managed or better, global performance has steadily declined since 2018, SFP said in a release. 

“Since 2018, we have unfortunately seen a steady decline globally in the performance of key fisheries supplying marine ingredients, due largely to persistent management issues,” SFP Program Director Dave Martin said. “While all stakeholders need to be engaged in supporting improvements, we are looking to the seafood industry to take the lead in fostering long-term partnerships with fisheries and supporting improvements to ensure sustainable fisheries can meet growing customer demands and remain healthy in the face of climate change.”

The evaluations were conducted in two phases to align with the release timings of key management measures and stock assessment information, similar to the previous year.

This report is also the first in its 14 iterations to include FishSource Environment and Biodiversity scoring, focusing on bycatch and fishery impacts on endangered species and marine habitats. While overall scores are reasonably good, there is room for improvement in these areas, the SFP said.

“We welcome the report and SFP’s call for further leadership within the seafood industry to generate positive changes that lead to better-managed fisheries,” Skretting Global Sustainability Director Jorge Diaz Salinas said in a release. “We acknowledge our responsibility and will use the information to identify and act, together with other partners, on fisheries with potential for social and environmental improvement that can sustain the increasing demand for marine ingredients. Moreover, the addition of the Environment and Biodiversity scoring will also be used as a tool to make better decisions in our operations.”

- Poland-based HiProMine has launched Central Europe's largest insect protein plant in Karkoszów.

“To face the need to protect the environment and water resources, the aquaculture industry will change, also in terms of nutrition. Large-scale production of insect-derived products is crucial due to its ecological aspect and no environmental degradation,” HiProMine Sales and Marketing Director Maciej Szumiński said in a release. 

The facility, which is located 100 kilometers from Berlin, Germany, uses proprietary technology to breed and rear insects, aiming to support sustainable aquaculture.

- Greenpeace UK revealed new data showing that approximately 2,000 kilometers of fishing line was dragged through the Sargasso Sea in 2023, which has urged the U.K. government to enhance protection efforts.

The report found a fleet of fishing vessels using drifting longlines has caused significant bycatch of marine mammals, turtles, seabirds, and sharks.

“We’ve seen with our own eyes how the Sargasso Sea is a wildlife haven for many species that are found nowhere else, as well as for baby sea turtles and seabirds on their epic migrations across the Atlantic Ocean,” Greenpeace UK Oceans Campaigner Fiona Nicholls said in a release. “But, our research shows the sea is a Wild West that is facing growing pressure from shipping and industrial fishing fleets.”

The report also noted a 30 percent increase in vessel traffic since 2018, with more than 9,000 ships crossing the Sargasso Sea in 2023. In response, Greenpeace is calling for the U.K. to ratify the U.N. Global Oceans Treaty and declare the Sargasso Sea as the first ocean sanctuary under the treaty.

“Drifting longlines pose a major risk to this precious ecosystem because they fish indiscriminately, hooking marine mammals, turtles, seabirds, and sharks along with their intended catch. Huge container ships and tankers plow through these waters every waking hour. The U.K. government must play its part and transform a symbolic commitment to protect the global oceans into bold action. It's time to swiftly cement the international agreement into U.K. law and champion the Sargasso Sea as the world's first ocean sanctuary under the Treaty,” Nicholls said.

- Three seafood companies have partnered to ship 84 truckloads of Pacific oyster shells from the U.S. state of Washington across the country to address the oyster fishery's shell shortage in the state of Maryland, caused by years of harvesting and exporting.

Pacific Seafood, Madison Bay Seafood, and Wittman Wharf Seafood transported the shells in 53-foot-long trucks, according to Koin 6 News. The trip spans from Pacific Seafood’s processing site in South Bend, Washington, to a restoration site in Toddville, Maryland. 

“At Pacific Seafood, we believe in utilizing all parts of seafood species to prevent waste,” Pacific Seafood South Bend Plant Manager Jenn Allison said. “We are proud to help rebuild the oyster population for this public fishery and support an initiative that aligns with our values of sustainability and environmental responsibility.”

The project initially faced skepticism from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources over concerns about introducing Pacific oysters into Chesapeake Bay. Research confirmed the shells were compatible, leading to regulatory approval, according to Pacific Seafood,. It said the project was a significant milestone in marine conservation, highlighting the power of cross-coastal collaboration.

- Ocean Wise announced 14 new recommendations for British Columbian wild-caught salmon under its sustainable seafood label, with recommendation categories ranging froms stock health and abundance to bycatch and fisheries management and data collection. The recommendations stem from a unique assessment process combining data with real applications, the organization said in a release.

“These recommendations aren’t just good for the ocean and waterways but good for fishing families and coastal nations who rely on salmon for their livelihoods,” Ocean Wise President and CEO Lasse Gustavsson said.

- FishChoice has added octopus to its curated species list, helping suppliers and buyers ensure responsible sourcing commitments. 

This decision follows consultations with trusted FishChoice partners, the organization said in a release, and sees octopus join mahi, snapper, grouper, shrimp, crab, and squid on the FishChoice list.

Global demand for octopus has risen steadily over the past few decades and is expected to continue increasing. With emerging supply chain issues, there have been issues with some catches declining and prices rising.

Interest in octopus aquaculture has grown, despite the challenges posed by their unique life cycles and dietary needs.

- A new study published in Nature Portfolio Journal Ocean Sustainability shows how managing overfishing is crucial for protecting ocean carbon stores and fighting climate change.

The ocean is essential for regulating Earth’s climate and provides food for billions, yet overfishing and habitat destruction threaten marine life and reduce the ocean's ability to absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) and excess heat, according to the report.

“Too often, the climate and nature crises are addressed as separate from one another, but overfishing and marine habitat degradation threaten both ocean biodiversity and reduce the ability of the ocean to buffer the impacts of climate change,” International Program on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) contributor and Marine Scientist Natalie Andersen said in a release. “This paper illustrates the intrinsic link between protecting biodiversity and supporting the ocean’s ability to mitigate climate change. Stopping overfishing is a positive action that can make a huge difference in the fight to tackle climate change.”

 Improving fisheries has the potential to yield numerous benefits while reducing the negative impacts of unsustainable fishing, such as seabed destruction, fish stock collapse, and illegal fishing, the study said. Implementing an ecosystem approach, which goes beyond focusing on a single stock, can help restore marine biodiversity, enhance food security, and mitigate climate change effects.

“Halting overfishing is effective climate action while also offering benefits for ocean vitality, climate robustness, and the livelihoods reliant on sustainable fisheries,” study co-author Rashid Sumaila said. “More than being just food, fish stocks serve as vital carbon sequestration and biodiversity services that directly benefit humanity. Managed sustainably, fisheries could play a pivotal role in either exacerbating or mitigating climate change.”

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