Sealord has signed on to WWF’s Western Central Pacific Tuna Conservation Pledge, New Zealand's first signatory, and announced its intention to reduce non-tuna bycatch to no more than one percent of total catch by 2015.
The pledge brings together brands, harvesters and manufacturers focused on ensuring tuna fishing is well managed.
Sealord said it plans to buy tuna only from the best performing fishermen in the Western Central Pacific, based on catch data from each trip, and would use tools including the ISSF (International Seafood Sustainability Foundation) Proactive Vessel Register to track an individual vessel’s fishing practices.
“This will improve our ability to tell our customers exactly what is being done by each vessel to reduce environmental impacts and keep the fishery healthy," said general manager Stu Yorston.
In 2011 Greenpeace launched a campaign calling on New Zealand’s main brands of canned tuna to stop selling tuna caught using fish aggregation devices (FADs), and blasted Sealord as a culprit, going as far as converting the Three Kings water reservoir in Auckland into a giant Sealord tuna can and labelling it ‘Bad Tuna’.
But according to Yorston: “We are not as hung up on catching methods as some other companies are; our focus is on sustainability. Where the catch data from specific trips shows FAD-free fishing provides the best result, then we will buy FAD-free, if selective fishing using FADs provides better results then we will buy from those fishers."
Alfred Cook, WWF’s Western Central Pacific Tuna Programme Officer, said WWF welcomed Sealord's decision.
A copy of the pledge can be seen here, and is copied below:
We the undersigned, pledge to support the conservation and sustainable management of tuna in South East Asia and the Western Central Pacific. We recognise that this principally includes yellowfin, bigeye, skipjack, and albacore tunas and acknowledge that this entails reducing impacts on tuna and tuna-like species, as well as on associated species such as marine turtles and sharks.
As responsible buyers, harvesters, processors, and/or traders, we agree to support and invest in well-planned and designed tuna fishery improvement and conservation initiatives to sustain livelihoods, minimise environmental impact, and supply the world with responsibly-managed, high quality tuna and to move forward fisheries to seek Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification. We recognise that such initiatives can usefully complement government management action.
Towards this end, we are committed to implementing and supporting through relevant country level influence:
- the improved conservation and management of all tuna species, especially proper management measures for juvenile bigeye and yellowfin tunas,
- the adoption of bycatch avoidance and mitigation measures that conform to international best practices, including circle hooks in the longline fisheries to reduce turtle bycatch,
- actions that ensure a transparent and traceable supply chain for tuna products into local and international markets, including a robust Catch Documentation System, and;
- continuous investment in fisheries improvement to implement ecosystem-based management in tuna fisheries, and, where possible, move towards MSC certification.
We call on the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission to further support the implementation of a fisheries management framework that improves fisheries sustainability and meets the demands of increasingly discerning markets, specifically by:
- adopting strong, science-based Harvest Strategies, Harvest Control Rules, and Reference Points to ensure the integrity, reliability, and consistency of the global tuna supply;
- adopting and verifiably implementing conservation and management measures that enable a transparent and traceable supply chain for tuna products to markets, minimise the bycatch of juvenile bigeye and yellowfin tuna,
- reduce the mortality of key threatened bycatch species, including marine turtles, sharks, and seabirds to as close to zero as possible; and
- supporting WWF’s fisheries improvement and conservation projects to advance responsible and sustainable Western Central Pacific tuna fisheries.