Princes achieves 50 percent cut to Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna sourcing

Princes' tuna products will now have 50 percent less yellowfin tuna from the Indian Ocean.

Liverpool, United Kingdom-headquartered international food and beverage group Princes has reached its goal of reducing the amount of yellowfin tuna that it sources from the Indian Ocean by 50 percent, one year ahead of its 2022 target deadline.

Princes committed to the sourcing shift in order to make it clear to the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) that action and leadership is required to protect the long-term sustainability of the yellowfin tuna stock, which has been overfished since 2015.

Princes is a member of the Global Tuna Alliance (GTA), which has also been putting pressure on the IOTC to urgently adopt a recovery plan for the stock.

In June 2021, IOTC members agreed to an interim rebuilding plan, but it fell short of the recommended actions needed to rebuild stocks within two generations, Princes said.

Princes is now forecasting that it will be sourcing around 16,141 metric tons (MT) of yellowfin in 2021, equating to approximately 70 million cans of tuna. This, it said, is a 51 percent reduction on its 2017 base figure of 32,768 MT.

However, it admits that it faces “an uphill battle” to maintain the 50 percent reduction into 2022, as the COVID-19 pandemic “created an unusual set of circumstances” that helped it to achieve its goal a year ahead of its target. 

“As we all know, 2021 has been a unique year, and that has impacted our tuna sourcing in different ways. We faced periods of closures and reduced production at our Mauritian canning sites, and whilst we maintained our supply of products, our sourcing did reduce somewhat,” Princes Group Director for Fish Neil Bohannon said. “We need to flex our tuna sourcing as part of our multi-ocean strategy to ensure we can maintain the 50 percent Indian Ocean yellowfin reduction next year.”

Despite the challenges, Bohannon said the company remains committed to its original pledge.

“Putting sustainability first is always a huge challenge – it takes commitment, action, and a huge amount of hard work. We are not going to shy away from these challenges, and we would call on all our industry partners to have the same mindset,” Bohannon said. “The IOTC’s rebuilding plan is a good first step, but the future sustainability of yellowfin tuna will remain at risk if a more robust rebuilding plan is not adopted.”

GTA Executive Director Tom Pickerell said that long-term action is urgently needed on the overfished yellowfin stock, and also praised Princes for exercising its commercial leverage to drive change.

“What is crucial now is that the IOTC supports these efforts with a formalized and scientifically-sound rebuilding plan – this is what the Global Tuna Alliance has been asking of all IOTC delegates. If properly managed there will be enough tuna for everyone – it’s not rocket science; a scientifically-led cut in catches now will rebuild the stock,” Pickerell said.

At the IOTC’s 25th Commission session in June, the GTA called upon members to limit the yellowfin catch to 341,000 MT, but five IOTC member states have since objected to the plan.

The interim rebuilding plan for yellowfin tuna will come into effect on 1 January, 2022, but the GTA has warned the objecting member-states will not have to implement the conservation measure, and will instead be bound by their previous catch-limits. It calculates that they could increase their total 2022 catch by over 50,000 MT if their catches equal those for 2019, which would far exceed the scientific recommendation.

Photo courtesy of Princes


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