Tesco promises to drop Indian Ocean yellowfin it quotas aren’t cut

Published on
September 14, 2020

If the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) fails to implement a recovery plan to rebuild overfished yellowfin tuna and billfish stocks at its next meeting in November, then Tesco will stop sourcing these fish for its Own Brand products, the U.K. supermarket chain has warned.

Tesco sells two different tuna species in within its Own Brand: skipjack, which goes into cans and sandwiches; and yellowfin, which it sells in frozen or chilled steaks.

In its new yellowfin tuna pledge, Tesco states that the yellowfin tuna stock in the Indian Ocean is not being managed successfully due to the mix of coastal states and distant-water fishing nations failing to adopt catch-reduction measures proposed by IOTC’s scientists.

“These catch reductions would help the stock recover from its current status of ‘overfished’,” it said. “IOTC’s existing fishery management practices have proved ineffective, and robust recovery plans have not been set. Without these, declining tuna populations threaten to impact the entire marine ecosystem.”

Without a rebuilding plan, Tesco said, the company cannot continue carrying the products.

“Should the member states at the meeting fail to agree a credible and effective recovery plan to rebuild the population within two generations, Tesco will stop sourcing tuna and billfish from the Indian Ocean for our Own Brand supply until such a plan is adopted,” the company said.

If that were to happen, Tesco said that its advocacy and efforts in the area will continue through the Global Tuna Alliance (GTA), and its partnership with WWF.

“We recognize the importance of the work our branded suppliers are doing, as they continue to lead the industry in promoting the responsible sourcing of tuna and ask that this leadership continues to improve sustainability in the Indian Ocean,” the company said.

Last year, the retailer decided to freeze its volumes for tuna and billfish in the Indian Ocean. It also joined other retailers and NGOs to call for the catch reductions recommended by the IOTC’s scientists to be put in place and commit to an effective rebuilding plan.

“With international collaboration and precautionary management measures, the Indian Ocean has great potential to have flourishing fisheries to feed local communities as well as the global growing demand for seafood. We hope the IOTC members reach an agreement for a robust yellowfin rebuilding plan in November,” Tesco said.

According to GTA, which is an independent group of retailers and suppliers committed to improving tuna sustainability and human rights in tuna fisheries, a 25 percent reduction in the Indian Ocean yellowfin catch will be necessary to help the stock recover within two years.

Some 20 percent of the world’s tuna catch comes from the Indian Ocean. 

Photo courtesy of D K Grove/Shutterstock

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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