112 Supply Chain Companies Unite to Save the MSC Label on Tuna

112 top supply chain companies, including 17 of the top 20 largest global retailers, write to the Heads of Delegations to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), urging them to accelerate action to develop comprehensive, harvest strategies across all tuna stocks and prevent the loss of Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Certification

Contact: Rachel Walker, rachel@mindfullywired.org

November 4, 2021. – 112 of the world’s major supply chain companies have signed an open letter to the Heads of Delegation at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), demanding that the WCPFC accelerates action to develop comprehensive, harvest strategies across all tuna stocks.

The letter, written by the Global NGO Tuna Form, was sent to all WCPFC delegates on behalf of a number of the world’s top retailers[1] including, but not limited to:

  • Walmart
  • Whole Foods (Amazon)
  • Costco
  • Lidl (Schwarz)
  • Aldi
  • Tesco
  • Target
  • The Kroger Company

Additional supply chain signatories – such as EuroCommerce, SeaBOS, the Global Tuna Alliance and the Tuna Protection Alliance – join companies to call for this action to ensure the continued healthy state of Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) tuna fisheries and to avoid the risk of suspension of Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certifications.

An excerpt from the letter states, “In addition to meeting the WCPFC’s own Work Plan, adhering to best practices of modern fisheries management, and being consistent with the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement and the Food and Agricultural Organization Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, harvest strategies are an essential component of the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative’s (GSSI) benchmarking tool.

There are 27 GSSI-recognised MSC certified tuna fisheries in the region, as well as an additional 5 fisheries currently seeking MSC certification, representing over two million tonnes of certified and potentially certified WCPFC tuna within the supply chain each year.  These certifications are at high risk of suspension from the MSC program by their independent assessors if the WCPFC is unable to complete its workplans related to harvest strategies and harvest control rules by December 2022. The MSC has published a factsheet that outlines this situation.

The concerned supply chain companies have urged the WCPFC to make significant progress this year and next in establishing robust management measures for implementation at its December 2022 meeting. Other MSC certified tuna fisheries in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean could face difficulty meeting their conditions and certifiers may suspend them in June 2023.

The letter’s signatories all hold a significant stake in the Western and Central Pacific tuna stock, as organisations who source and supply tuna globally. Many of the signatories are Global Tuna Alliance (GTA) partners, Tuna Protection Alliance (TUPA) partners, partners of the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership and participants in their global tuna roundtable, ISSF Participating Companies, and FishWise and WWF market partners who have committed to improving the sustainability and traceability of their own supply chains, and are dedicated to sourcing tuna from environmentally and socially responsible fisheries.

Isabelle Hoffmann, Head of CSR Purchasing at Lidl France said:

For several years now, Lidl France is committed towards sourcing environmentally and socially responsible tuna; and MSC certified tuna is part of the solution. We urge WCPFC to take action to ensure that they make significant progress this year, not jeopardizing MSC certified fisheries. Alongside with other French companies part of the TUPA, we will continue to advocate for better management towards RFMOs”.

Statement from Walmart:

Walmart aspires to become a regenerative company, one dedicated to placing nature and humanity at the center of our business practices. Walmart is committed to accelerating the adoption of more sustainable practices in tuna sourcing. As a key sourcing region for the world, we ask the WCPFC members to take necessary action at the upcoming meeting to help fully implement sustainable management measures in the WCPO tuna fisheries. The time to act to support a sustainable future is now. 

Leslie Hushka, SVP, Global Corporate Social responsibility at The Bumble Bee Seafood Company said:

“WCPFC’s leadership is critical in accelerating actions that advance robust harvest strategies and rebuild ocean abundance and diversity,”

“Everyone with a strategic interest in the tuna industry must continue to work together to protect our oceans for the planet and the billions of people who rely on seafood for sustenance and the millions who rely on the fishing industry for their livelihood.”

Chris Shearlock, Fish Sustainability Manager at Princes Ltd., said:

“Princes urges WCPFC members to take the action required to establish the Harvest Strategies needed to ensure the sustainability of Western Pacific tuna stocks. We are deeply concerned by the prospect that the Western Pacific – home to around half of the world’s tuna – could lose its Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certifications in 2023 if significant progress is not made by the WCPFC this year.”

Ed Meijboom, Sales Director at RD Foods B.V., said:

“RD Foods B.V. – as part of RD Corporation – have been very active in bringing sustainably caught tuna from the Western Pacific to the EU market. MSC certified tuna is playing an important role in this regard and it is vital to the local companies and economies. is therefore important that the WCPFC are taking appropriate action in order to keep the MSC fisheries certified. Together with GTA and TUPA members we call for action in the upcoming WCPFC meeting to make significant steps towards retaining the MSC certifications.”

Statement from TriMarine:

We appreciate the hard work needed of the Commission to adopt a new three-year bridging measure for tropical tunas at WCPFC18.  However, we urge CCMs to also set the stage for the development and adoption of harvest strategies in 2022 and make this the focal point of next year’s agenda.

Tom Pickerell, Executive Director of the GTA, said:

“49% of seafood consumers recognise the blue MSC label. If this label is lost on tuna products from Western Central Pacific fisheries, over two million tonnes of tuna could no longer be sold as MSC-certified. Retailers and supply chain companies have made public commitments to the sustainable sourcing of seafood. If the WCPFC fails to accelerate action, many retailers may be forced to review their sourcing policies.”

The urgency with which the signatories are demanding the WCPFC to act cannot be understated, and the 112 companies hold significant purchasing power. Develop tuna harvest strategies. Manage fisheries responsibly. Save the MSC label.

The letter, along with logos of all the signatories, can be read here.

Notes to editors:

The Global NGO Tuna Forum brings together NGOs and other individuals and organizations that work comprehensively on global tuna sustainability issues that fall within one or more of the following core focus areas: RFMO Management & Advocacy; Market-based Mechanisms for Improving Sustainability; and On the Water Research, Activities and Improvements.

The Global Tuna Alliance (GTA) is an independent group of retailers and tuna supply chain companies who are committed to achieving more transparent, socially responsible, and environmentally sustainable tuna fisheries. Operating over 10,000 stores in 21 countries across five continents, they use their collective purchasing power to influence the policies set out by the tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (tRFMOs).

The Tuna Protection Alliance (TUPA) is a precompetitive initiative driven by French & Belgian canned tuna market players who recognise that retailers, producers and fleets must work together to quickly adopt better fishing practices and management to restore balance and safeguard resources for future generations.

The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) is a treaty-based organisation established to conserve and manage tuna and other highly migratory fish stocks across the western and central areas of the Pacific Ocean

[1] Deloitte 2021 “Global Powers of Retailing” report. Signatories include Walmart, Amazon (Whole Foods), Costco, Lidl (Schwarz), Kroger, Aldi, Tesco, Target, Ahold Delhaize, Edeka, Auchan, E Leclerc, Casino, Publix, Sainsbury’s, Loblaw, Intermarché.

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