Hy-Vee publicly IDs all vessels supplying it with tuna

Published on
June 20, 2022

West Des Moines, Iowa, U.S.A.-based grocery chain Hy-Vee and its wholly-owned distribution subsidiary, Perishable Distributors of Iowa, have disclosed a complete list of fishing vessels that supply its fresh, frozen, and canned private-label tuna.

“This is a groundbreaking decision for the U.S. retail sector due to longstanding challenges regarding a lack of transparency into tuna supply chains,” Hy-Vee said in a statement.

The disclosure comes via a partnership with nonprofit sustainable seafood consultancy FishWise, which releaesd the tuna vessel list report as of April 2022. After FishWise and Hy-Vee cross-referenced each vessel name with the ISSF Proactive Vessel Register, regional fisheries management organization (RFMO) vessel lists, RFMO IUU vessel lists, the FishWise labor allegations list, and the Global Fishing Watch database, FishWise and Hy-Vee “were unable to identify any vessels directly associated with human rights and/or labor rights concerns,” they said. 

“While this is not a guarantee that vessels supplying Hy-Vee with private-label tuna are completely free of these concerns, it is a satisfactory finding that all longline and purse-seine vessels were able to be publicly identified and cross referenced with vessel blacklists,” they said.

For a six-month period, FishWise identified 29 individual purse-seine vessels, 33 longline vessels, one pole and line vessel, and more than 3,000 handline boats involved in Hy-Vee’s tuna supply chains.

“The sheer number and diversity of vessels underscores the complexity of tuna supply chains,” FishWise Project Director Ethan Lucas said. “We were impressed that Hy-Vee’s private-label suppliers were able to provide these data relatively efficiently, demonstrating that this level of transparency is certainly possible.”

Hy-Vee is “committed to providing our customers with seafood that is environmentally sustainable, from legal sources, and produced and processed under fair labor conditions,” Hy-Vee Vice President of Meat and Seafood Jason Pride said. “This means working closely with our partners at FishWise and our suppliers to proactively identify and mitigate risks in our seafood sourcing.”

The tuna vessel identification effort is part of an ongoing sustainable seafood program that began in 2011, when Hy-Vee and PDI partnered with FishWise to improve the environmental sustainability, social responsibility, and traceability of the company’s seafood supply chains. Through the partnership, Hy-Vee has maintained 100 percent compliance with its seafood procurement policy, adopted a seafood supplier code of conduct, and made public its vendor expectations letter.

The retailer has also utilized novel technology such as public satellite data to investigate fishing vessel activity and worker time spent at sea.

“Tuna supply chains are global and opaque, with tuna fishing vessels operating in remote regions of the ocean where oversight is often lacking,” FishWise Business Engagement Director Ashley Greenley said. “Consequently, tuna fisheries are susceptible to unsustainable fishing practices and are at increased risk for human rights violations.”

Photo courtesy of anthony heflin/Shutterstock 

Contributing Editor



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