UK brands act to cut catch of 'near-threatened' yellowfin tuna

Voluntary action of companies including Tesco and Princes aims to put pressure on regulatory body to tackle overfishing

British supermarkets and brands, including Tesco, the Co-op and Princes, are stepping up action to cut yellowfin tuna catches in the Indian Ocean, amid warnings the stock is in a “critical” state.

The effort, by companies reliant on healthy fish stocks, represents a counterintuitive effort to force regulators to act, rather than the other way around.

Yellowfin, found in tropical and sub-tropical waters, is widely recognised as being overfished in the Indian Ocean and is listed as “near-threatened” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

On Thursday, the Liverpool-based international food and drinks brand Princes announced it would cut its sourcing of yellowfin in the Indian Ocean by half compared with 2017 levels, to 16,000 tonnes.

Princes said it hoped the voluntary cut would put pressure on the management body that oversees the stock, the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), as well as its member states, fishers and vessels, to introduce cuts to catches ahead of its annual meeting in November.

Retailers and brands have backed repeated calls by NGOs, including the Pew Charitable Trusts and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), for the IOTC to reduce catches of the species in line with scientific advice, amid increasing concerns over overfishing.

Neil Bohannon, group director for fish at Princes, said: “In recognition of the situation we face, Princes decided to take action to reduce our use of Indian Ocean yellowfin. Our action alone however will not be enough; the IOTC needs to take action and encourage all fleets to reduce catches by 25% from 2017 levels.”

A “credible recovery plan” was needed to allow stock rebuilding, he said.

“With our voluntary reduction of Indian Ocean yellowfin in excess of the scientific advice, we are demonstrating our commitment in supporting this recovery.”

The company, which has two processing sites and 4,000 employees in Mauritius, has been sourcing alternatives to yellowfin since 2017. It has already achieved a 40% reduction, it said. Indian Ocean yellowfin currently accounts for less than 5% of the total Indian Ocean catch.

The measures follow Tesco’s September announcement that it would stop sourcing yellowfin tuna and billfish from the Indian Ocean if the IOTC fails to implement a recovery plan to rebuild stocks. The retailer said the body’s management practice had been “ineffective”. “Declining tuna populations threaten to impact the entire marine ecosystem,” the company said.

Last month, the Co-op reaffirmed its pledge not to sell any own-brand or branded yellowfin tuna in its stores. It has not sourced yellowfin tuna for seven years.

A report commissioned by the Global Tuna Alliance (GTA), an independent group of retailers and global supply chains working towards sustainable tuna, concluded a 25% reduction in catch levels would be necessary to rebuild the stock within two generations. Yellowfin stock has been overfished in the Indian Ocean since 2016, GTA said, and under management measures by IOTC, many fleets had even increased their catches.

Marcel Kroese, WWF global tuna leader, welcomed the measures taken by Princes. He said: “The species is in a critical state and a plan to rebuild a healthy stock is urgently needed.”


Karen McVeigh

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Retailers join calls for ‘urgent’ action to restrict harmful tuna fishing methods
‘Fish aggregating devices’ have been linked to depletion of yellowfin populations and increased bycatch in the Indian Ocean

Karen McVeigh

09, Mar, 2021 @1:58 PM

Article image
EU accused of ‘neocolonial’ plundering of tuna in Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean states say EU pushing weakest conservation efforts for yellowfin tuna while EU ‘distant fleet’ hoovers up the most fish

Karen McVeigh

05, Mar, 2021 @6:00 AM

Article image
Fishing nations to lower catch limits for Atlantic bigeye tuna
Plan aims to allow tuna population to recover from overfishing, but conservationists say endangered mako shark has been overlooked

Karen McVeigh

27, Nov, 2019 @2:00 PM

Article image
Under cover of darkness: the damaging effects of illegal ‘saiko’ fishing
A destructive fishing practice by foreign-owned industrial trawlers is threatening livelihoods in Ghana’s coastal communities

17, Oct, 2022 @5:00 AM

Article image
‘An invisible killer’: how fishing gear became the deadliest marine plastic
Plastic in the depths: as ‘ghost gear’ chokes the ocean, campaigners call for mandatory measures including buy-back schemes and recycling

Emma Bryce

07, Nov, 2022 @6:00 AM

Article image
Blue ticked off: the controversy over the MSC fish ‘ecolabel’
The MSC’s coveted blue tick is the world’s biggest, and some say best, fishery ecolabel. So why is it in the headlines – and does it really do what it says on the tin?

Karen McVeigh

26, Jul, 2021 @5:00 AM

Article image
Damaging ‘fly-shooting’ fishing in Channel sparks concerns
Small-scale fishers say mostly EU fleet is devastating catches with method that nets entire shoals of fish

Karen McVeigh

28, Jun, 2021 @6:00 AM

Article image
UK fishing licences could be unlawful, says Oceana
Permits for UK and EU vessels will hinder efforts to protect marine life and may break habitats directive, conservation group warns

Karen McVeigh

17, Dec, 2021 @6:20 AM

Article image
Latin American countries join reserves to create vast marine protected area
‘Mega-MPA’ in Pacific will protect migratory turtles, whales and sharks from fishing fleets

Dan Collyns in Lima

02, Nov, 2021 @4:22 PM

Article image
Cutting the food chain? The controversial plan to turn zooplankton into fish oil
A budding industry that aims to catch zooplankton for health supplements and fish food has scientists fearing that its effects on marine ecosystems could be devastating

Regin Winther Poulsen in Tórshavn

19, Jan, 2022 @6:45 AM