Goodbye Yellowfin Road? On World Tuna Day, retailers urge delegations to save iconic species ahead of crucial conservation meeting

The Global Tuna Alliance (GTA), a collaborative group of pre-competitive retailers and supply chain companies, are united in their demand for science-based action to rebuild overfished Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna stock.


World Tuna Day, on the 2nd May each year, exists to “highlight the importance of managing fish stocks to maintain sustainability”. This year, it falls just a fortnight before the start of the 26th Session of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) – the meeting responsible for managing tuna stocks in the Indian Ocean. The GTA’s Partners, who include the likes of Tesco, Ahold Delhaize, Asda, and Princes, are calling on delegations to match the strength of their own rhetoric and ambition with meaningful action in the form of binding agreements on a range of issues relating to the sustainability and social responsibility of tuna fisheries in the Indian Ocean.

Chief on the agenda at the upcoming meeting are discussions aimed at placing a catch limit on overfished yellowfin tuna stocks in the Indian Ocean. At last year’s meeting, while 24 of the 30 Member States in the IOTC agreed to a yellowfin catch reduction, six countries formally objected to the interim agreement, which included: India, Indonesia, Iran, Madagascar, Oman and Somalia.

On the issue of Indian Ocean yellowfin, the Director of the GTA, Dr. Tom Pickerell said: “Consumers, suppliers, retailers, the scientific community and NGOs are all united in calling for a yellowfin catch reduction, but such a measure will only be effective if every nation in the Indian Ocean plays by the same rules. If, like last year, one or a handful of nations dissent, it torpedoes the entire objective.”

To drive the point home to IOTC delegations of the overwhelming consensus on coming up with a yellowfin rebuilding plan, the GTA took a unique approach in its advocacy work, posting a reimagined clip from The Wizard of Oz, with stakeholders urging the IOTC to “Rebuild the Yellowfin Road”. The comical meme is supported by other, more serious messaging which outlines the roadmap to success at the IOTC meeting.

The Global Tuna Alliance wants to see the Indian Ocean’s yellowfin population rebuilt within two generations (approximately 10 years). To do this, the GTA is insisting that catch levels be reduced by 30% compared to the 2020 catch, which according to a report by the IOTC scientific committee, would yield a 67% chance of keeping the population stable by 2030.

GTA partners who collectively buy around 20% of the world’s tuna production were unequivocal in their demand for yellowfin catch limits in the Indian Ocean at a recent roundtable discussion between industry and market stakeholders and IOTC delegations.

Helena Delgado Nordmann, the Responsible Sourcing Manager for Marine at Tesco, said: “At Tesco, we have a crucial role in promoting healthy oceans and fish stocks and preserving resources for future generations. Tuna is integral to the diets of millions of people across the globe, but also presents one of the biggest challenges in terms of sustainability. We ask that all the delegations go through the GTA position statement, discuss it in advance, and ensure that in the next IOTC meeting we have a strong agreement and a helpful way forward.”

Peter Adame, Director of Communications and Sustainability at Lusamerica Foods added: “Yellowfin populations continue to be a concern in the Indian Ocean. I urge our delegates to agree on reducing catch by 30% and adopting a science-based management plan… A proper management plan has been put off and delayed for too long. Let’s do our part to ensure tuna from the Indian Ocean are around for generations to come. It’s critical for biodiversity in our oceans, jobs for neighbours and food security in our homes.” 

The GTA’s IOTC position statement covers its Indian Ocean yellowfin rebuilding proposal along with other priorities it wants to see discussed at IOTC. These include implementing harvest strategies (also known as management procedures) for three threatened Indian Ocean species and expanding observer coverage with better monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) measures to clamp down on illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing.


Notes to editors:

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 four continents, they use their collective purchasing power to influence the policies set out by the tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (tRFMOs).

Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) is an intergovernmental organisation responsible for the management of tuna and tuna-like species in the Indian Ocean. It is one of the five tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (RFMOs).

Tesco PLC is a British multinational groceries and general merchandise retailer and the third largest retailer in the world in terms of gross revenue.

Lusamerica Foods, Inc. is a wholesale fresh and frozen seafood processor and distributor. Product is distributed to California, Washington and Arizona. Lusamerica Foods, Inc. is also an Interstate Certified Shellfish Shipper (ICSSL) that distributes fresh and frozen seafood interstate.

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