SFP 2018 shelf-stable tuna report shows path to sector sustainability

Published on
December 12, 2018

The Sustainable Fisheries Partnership released its annual report on shelf-stable tuna on 10 December, and it indicates that almost half of the sector is being sustainably sourced or improving with potential for more in the near-feature. 

The report, which is part of SFP’s Target 75 Initiative, showed that 41.1 percent of global production of shelf-stable tuna is considered either sustainable or improving, with avenues for increasing that number in the near future. 

The vast majority of the shelf-stable tuna industry stems from purse-seines catching skipjack tuna. Over 80 percent of the shelf-stable tuna catch is caught via purse-seine gear. Of that, 45 percent of the global volume – 1.9 million metric tons – comes from the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission’s skipjack catch. 

Thailand is by far the largest exporter of canned tuna, and over half of the country’s exports go to countries that either have existing sustainability drives established or emerging. Thailand is followed by Ecuador, which has an even larger percentage of its exports go to countries with existing sustainability efforts. 

A clear avenue for improvement, according to the SFP, is using those existing markets with strong sustainability to leverage the tuna industry. Markets in North America, the European Union, and other areas with strong sustainability account for 47 percent of the global canned tuna consumption, which could be utilized as leverage on exporters. According to the report those same markets accounted for 52 percent of the whitefish market, “which was sufficient to achieve close to Target 75 for wild-caught whitefish.”

Another clear target for improvement are fisheries with existing or in-progress FIPs. The fisheries with FIPs are the Indonesia National Tuna FIP, Eastern Atlantic tuna purse seine FIP, and the PT Pahala Bahari Nusantara tuna purse seine FIP, according to the report. All three have the potential to add 12 percent more tuna to the shelf-stable sector.

Another clear avenue is improvement work on an FIP based in Papua New Guinea, as well as a new national-level FIP in Japan. While those two projects will require utilizing the aforementioned “leverage,” they also could add another 23 percent of shelf-stable tuna to the global sustainable production figures. 

“The strategy as described above accounts for 76 percent of global production achieving T75. The North American and E.U. markets (approximately half of the market for shelf-stable tuna) should increase pressure on suppliers and producers to initiate more and larger FIPs,” the report said. 

The most urgent action is needed in Japan and the Parties of the Nauru Agreement, which accounts for the largest target for increasing global shelf-stable tuna sustainability. 

“Shelf-stable tuna’s role as such a key commodity makes the data in this report terribly important in the grand scheme,” SFP CEO Jim Cannon said. “The amount of shelf-stable tuna that is already and will be meeting the T75 criteria is indicative not just of the interest in shelf-stable tuna, but in making sure the industry as a whole is doing everything it can to improve sustainable seafood production worldwide.”

Photo courtesy of Sustainable Fisheries Project

Want seafood news sent to your inbox?

You may unsubscribe from our mailing list at any time. Diversified Communications | 121 Free Street, Portland, ME 04101 | +1 207-842-5500