Safeway recently announced that the Safeway brand Skipjack (chunk-light) canned tuna will be responsibly caught using free-school purse-seine methods. This method of using purse-seiners spots tuna schools by using radar and sonar. The company will transition to this method by the end of the year.
The tuna fishing industry is addressing the negative ecosystem impacts of their practices and Safeway’s announcement comes at a time when consumer demand for sustainably caught seafood is at a high. The purse-seine netted fishing practices uses fish aggregating devices (FADs). FADs are used to attract deep-sea fish like tuna and they usually consist of buoys or floats tethered to the ocean floor with concrete blocks. Over 300 species like turtles, sharks and other species of fish including juveniles gather around FADs which means this method of fishing greatly increases by-catch.
The supermarket chain is currently in the process of coming up with additional specifications for sourcing albacore tuna responsibly by using longline vessels with better fishing techniques. According to the chain, the Safeway brand “responsibly caught” tuna is the first brand in North America to make this important move.
Global campaigning organization, Greenpeace has welcomed this news. According to Casson Trenor, Senior Markets Campaigner, “Safeway has just galvanized its hold on pole position within the U.S. retail industry in regard to sustainable seafood. Safeway’s canned Skipjack tuna specifications are progressive, comprehensive, and visionary. They address the dangers of fish-aggregating devices. Greenpeace applauds Safeway for stepping up to the plate and making this powerful and public commitment and looks forward to the company’s forthcoming albacore tuna policy.”
Over the next year, a detailed sourcing plan will be put in place with Safeway working with suppliers who will meet their specifications. Their tuna supplies will also be verified by partners who can vouch for their supply chain transparency. The supermarket chain will work with the fishing industry, governments, Regional Fisheries Management Organizations, NGOs, and scientists to improve its supply chain and help with the management of sustainable fisheries.
Safeway has prided itself for being an industry leader in environmental sustainability and ethical business. They have a CSR policy that focuses on their product sourcing, community as well as the planet. The retailer also ranked number one on Greenpeace’s scorecard of the Top 20 grocery retailers on the sustainability of their seafood in 2011.
With so many accolades already, it is only natural they should start focusing on one of the widely consumed ocean species that is also severely threatened.