UK supermarket plans to sell sustainably fished tuna

Sainsbury’s is to solely use Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified skipjack tuna from the Maldives in its own label canned product from next year.

Sustainable Tuna fishing : Pole and Line Fishing in the Maldives

Pole and line fishermen land skipjack tuna in the Maldives.
Photograph: Paul Hilton/Greenpeace

Already the UK’s largest retailer of MSC-certified sustainable fish in the UK – selling more than 130 products carrying the logo – the supermarket says the move is a significant step forward in protecting the world’s tuna stocks. Skipjack is seen as a more sustainable species of tuna, when caught by pole and line, compared to yellowfin and bluefin species.

The skipjack tuna sourced from the Maldives will be introduced into stores from April next year, making up around 60% of the chain’s own label skipjack tuna, and will sit alongside canned Albacore tuna which is already MSC-certified. Sainsbury’s currently tops the Greenpeace league for responsible sourcing of tinned tuna. Sainsbury’s currently carries 18 different lines of own brand skipjack tuna, 12 of which are 100% sourced from the Maldives. Three further lines are jointly sourced from the Maldives and Indonesia. Toby Middleton, MSC’s UK country manager, said: “Tuna is in the cupboards of nearly every kitchen in the country. Getting MSC certified skipjack to the UK has been a long journey and it is great that Sainsbury’s is maintaining its MSC market-leading position with this announcement.”

Source: The Guardian, 4th December 2012


Marinet observes: Whilst the Skipjack tuna population, the main tuna species supplying the canned market, remains in a relatively healthy condition due to its resilient biology, intensive fishing can very easily cause this tuna species to fall into a serious decline similar to that of the Atlantic, Southern and Pacific Ocean populations of Bluefin tuna.

The populations of Bluefin tuna in these oceans are now virtually extinct (due to over-fishing), and it is worth remembering that the North Sea (NE Atlantic) is estimated [see our Briefing: The Decline of North Sea Fish stocks 1880 to 2010 ] to have supported in 1880 a population of 177,000 tonnes whereas today, due to over-fishing, the North Sea commercial population is extinct. Even in the 1960s the North Sea still contained a good population of Bluefin tuna, and there were popular annual fishing tournaments along the Yorkshire coast to catch Bluefin tuna, but nowadays that is all history. The important thing to remember is that this species was once abundant in our seas, and that its absence today is abnormal, rather than normal. You can read further details about Tuna species in our article on our Planet Ocean website page.

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