Tuna roundtable discusses purchasing decisions of Japanese tuna companies

Published on
November 22, 2018

At the fourth Tokyo Sustainable Seafood Symposium on 1 November, Tom Pickerell, global tuna director for the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP), introduced the idea of a tuna roundtable to the Japanese industry, including suppliers and purchasers. 

The roundtable discussed fishery improvement projects (FIPs) and their importance in inching Japan towards more sustainable practices in relation to tuna.

The event was a follow up to an initial roundtable at Seafood Expo North America in Boston, Massachusetts in March 2018, titled “Fresh and Frozen Tuna Supply Chain Roundtable.” That roundtable attracted the participation of 29 companies – mainly North American and European, though Japan’s Fisheries Cooperative Union took part. 

Given Japan’s importance as the world’s largest importer of tuna, the involvement of more Japanese suppliers and major retailers would have a sizeable effect worldwide, Pickerell said. Companies do not have to make any specific commitments to take part in the roundtables, but should exhibit a willingness to take action. This could include taking part in FIPs, or encouraging them through purchasing decisions. 

The purpose of the roundtables is to promote FIPs as a step toward sustainability that does not require the all-or-nothing approach of a full Marine Stewardship Council certification, Pickerell said.

“It’s taking small chunks out of the elephant, without that fear of ‘It’s too much in one go,’” he told SeafoodSource.

Other goals coming out of the Tokyo roundtable include reducing longline bycatch techniques that are achievable at the vessel level, and to have market participants contact and push country representatives of the regional fisheries management organizations (RMFOs) to implement harvest strategies based on stock assessments and forecast models, rather than the annual horse-trading that currently defeats scientific management of the stock, Pickerell said. 

That message is especially important in Japan, he added. Since Japanese companies buy all over the world, their stated purchasing preferences could have an effect even on the representatives of other countries.

Pickerell said that the idea is to reach a “tipping point,” where there is a consensus for change. With the Tokyo Olympics coming up, FIPs are a good option for the Japanese industry “if they wish to demonstrate an example of something that could be done reasonably quickly with some positive impacts.”

Photo courtesy of Seafish

Contributing Editor reporting from Osaka, Japan

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