Whole Foods sets new canned tuna policy

Published on
March 16, 2017

All canned tuna sold at Whole Foods Market will have to meet strict new sustainability and traceability requirements by January 2018, the retailer said on 15 March.

“Whole Foods Market is the first national retailer to create such stringent standards for canned tuna, which is among the three most consumed seafood items in the United States,” the 435-store chain said in a statement.

The new sourcing, which aims to reduce overfishing and bycatch and support fishing communities, applies to canned tuna items sold in the retailer’s grocery aisles as well as in the prepared foods department. Now, all canned tuna must come from fisheries using only pole-and-line, troll, or handline catch methods. These methods take fish one by one, preventing bycatch and creating more jobs in coastal communities, according to the retailer.

“We created this new policy for canned tuna because we want to lead by example in sourcing only the highest quality, sustainably-caught tuna,” said Carrie Brownstein, global seafood quality standards coordinator for Whole Foods Market. “Combined with better international fishery management, overfishing and bycatch can be greatly reduced when tuna is caught by these low-impact fishing methods. We are honored to be working with suppliers and partners who are driving positive change.”

Whole Foods suppliers that already source from one-by-one fisheries, including, are updating their operations to meet new traceability requirements. In the next few months, the remaining suppliers will shift their operations and fishing practices to use the approved one-by-one catch methods, which are “more environmentally friendly and offer more employment opportunities for fishermen worldwide,” Whole Foods said.

“These measures will also help importers get ahead of the traceability provisions in NOAA’s Seafood Import Monitoring Program, which has a deadline for mandatory compliance by Jan. 1, 2018,” Whole Foods said.

According to the new policy, the fisheries must either be certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council or rated green or yellow by the Monterey Bay Aquarium and The Safina Center. Canned tuna suppliers must also use Trace Register, traceability software that tracks each lot of tuna at every point from vessel to can.

“Since America is the largest canned tuna market in the world, shifts toward greater sustainability in this category can create a meaningful, positive impact on our oceans and our global fishing communities,” said Adam Baske, director of policy and outreach for International Pole & Line Foundation. “In some cases, these one-by-one fisheries are one of very few sources of local employment. The boats also make relatively short trips, enabling crews to return home frequently, compared to large industrial tuna vessels that may spend multiple months or even years at sea.”

Contributing Editor



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