I have a special affection for tuna. I wrote my thesis on how to legally protect the Bluefin. Overfishing is a complicated situation fraught with geo-political issues. The bluefin is undeniably a money maker. However, it is a fact that the oceans of the world are being depleted of fish-stock largely due to over-fishing as well as illegal fishing and improper allocation of resources among stakeholders. As a result, this has become a key matter of CSR for companies dealing with seafood.
When it comes to tuna, experts agree that pole and line caught skipjack tuna is the most sustainable form. According to a Greenpeace report, the most sustainable UK brands include Sainburys, Co-op and Marks & Spencers. Endorsing sustainable fishing goes a long way towards protecting declining fish-stocks.
Greenpeace has been a long-term critic of John West (a UK based seafood marketer) which has been criticized in the past for its use of purse seines, a particularly destructive fishing method. However the two have joined hands to kick off a new sustainability program. Two days ago, the company announced a staged programme to source 100% of tuna sold in the UK by 2016 using properly audited pole and line techniques, as well as to sourcefrom fleets that pledge not to use fish aggregating devices (FADs).
Paul Reenan, managing director of John West, explained that the new target includes stringent demands on its suppliers. He said,
“The launch of our genuine transparent and detailed plan for tuna sustainability marks a step change in our business. We will need full support of boat owners, retailers and consumers to meet our goals.”
The proposed five-year corporate responsibility plan has a phased approach. It includes targets to source at least 25% of John West UK tuna sales from pole and line by the end of 2012, increasing to 35% by the end of 2013, 50% by the end of 2014, and 100% by the end of 2016. In the interim, the remaining tuna will be purchased from fleets that pledge not to use FADs and where the boats can prove that they have reduced by-catch by 50% against a 2011 baseline.
John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, welcomed the commitment as setting a benchmark for the rest of the industry. He was quoted saying:
“Historic changes have taken place in the UK, the world’s second largest consumer of tuna. The time is ripe for companies worldwide to deliver sustainable tuna in a way that protects tuna stocks and our oceans.”
Melissa Pritchard, marine scientist at NGO ClientEarth, also welcomed the move as “a step in the right direction.” She also urged John West to join the Sustainable Seafood Coalition, which consists of 13 brands and retailers working to develop a voluntary industry code of conduct to ensure all seafood sold in the UK is sustainable.
No other phenomenon demonstrates the tragedy of commons better than the mismanagement of world’s oceans. According to the FAO global fish consumption is set to grow at least 2% per year. But this increase in consumption patterns cannot be supported for very long in the face of depleting ocean stocks. Therefore every small effort taken to preserve ocean biodiversity is a good move both ecologically and commercially.