Tesco announces Yellowfin tuna pledge
3 September 2020
Oceans look after our planet. They produce over half of the world’s oxygen, help regulate the climate, and are also essential in ensuring food security for future generations.
At Tesco our ambition is to sustainably source all of our wild-caught seafood. In 2019, 79% of our UK seafood volumes were certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), and we were named MSC UK Supermarket of the Year. The remainder of the species are either sourced through Fisheries Improvement Projects, or Responsibly Sourced. All our seafood sources are publicly disclosed and can be found on the Ocean Disclosure Project website.
Tuna presents one of the biggest challenges in terms of sustainability. We sell two different species in our Own Brand products: Skipjack which goes into cans and sandwiches, and Yellowfin which we sell in frozen or chilled steaks.
As a highly migratory species, tuna cross the high seas and enter many different countries’ jurisdictions. This makes the management of the species difficult, with a need for international cooperation and agreements.
Tuna fisheries are managed by RFMOs, or Regional Fisheries Management Organisations. 20% of the tuna is caught globally is from the Indian Ocean, which is under the remit of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) RFMO. The Yellowfin tuna stock in this 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 the IOTC’s scientists. These catch reductions would help the stock recover from its current status of ‘overfished’.
As tuna and billfish fisheries tend to be linked, last year we decided to freeze our Own Brand volumes for tuna and billfish in the Indian Ocean. We have advocated for change individually and as part of the Global Tuna Alliance (GTA), an independent group of retailers and suppliers which are committed to improving tuna sustainability and human rights in tuna fisheries. In 2019, Tesco 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.
The next IOTC meeting is scheduled for early November 2020. 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. Should the member states at the meeting fail to agree a credible and effective recovery plan to rebuild the population within two generations(1), Tesco will stop sourcing tuna and billfish from the Indian Ocean for our Own Brand supply until such a plan is adopted. Our advocacy and efforts in the area will continue through the GTA and our partnership with WWF.
We recognise 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.
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.
For further information on the IO Yellowfin status please see the GTA report: https://www.globaltunaalliance.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/IOTC-YFN-Report-FINAL.pdf
(1) As outlined by the Global Tuna Alliance here: https://www.globaltunaalliance.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/IOTC-YFN-Report-FINAL.pdf