Fish accounts for nearly 17% of global protein consumption, and in fact more than four million metric tons of tuna is caught every year around the world for consumption. It’s no surprise then that tuna features so widely in Thai Union’s product range.
With tuna being such a focus, we recognize that we have a responsibility to ensure:
We use a range of tuna species across our various brands – Skipjack, Yellowfin, Albacore and Bigeye – all of which are wild caught in the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans.
Thai Union is committed to sourcing 100% of our branded tuna from fisheries that are either Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified, or engaged in Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs) to move them towards MSC certification.
For Thai Union, sustainably sourced tuna is tuna from fisheries that are certified according to standards by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) or are in Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs) that move the fishery towards MSC certification.
It also means full traceability that is the backbone of our sustainability strategy. Traceability allows us to address some of the most critical issues in our industry – combating Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, ensuring operational compliance on board on vessels to manage bycatch, and stamping out illegal or forced labor.
MSC certification is widely recognized as being the best mark of seafood sustainability.
MSC uses scientific evidence to assess fisheries based on three criteria – sustainable fish stocks, minimal environmental impacts, and effective management of the fishery. Every year, we will report on our progress towards our target of 75% of our global branded tuna being sustainably sourced by 2020.
A fishery is the ecosystem in which commercial fishing operates, and can take many different forms depending on where in the world they are located and the seafood species involved.
Parties involved can include governments, vessels, factories and seafood companies.
When a fishery decides to move towards MSC certification, it enters into a FIP, where all the parties involved commit to improve their fishing operations – to ensure that fish stocks are sustainable, environmental impacts are minimized, and that the fishery is effectively managed.
As different fisheries operate at different standards, a pre-assessment is conducted to identify the specific operations that each fishery needs to improve to reach the standard required for MSC certification. Based on the pre-assessment, an action plan is developed for the fishery to bring it to a sustainable level.
While MSC certification and developing FIPs is a significant step towards achieving the highest levels of sustainability in tuna sourcing, there are other issues in the industry that we are working hard to address to ensure consumers can have complete trust in the integrity of all tuna products.
These issues include Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported fishing (known as IUU) and labor problems in some part of the world.
Sadly, IUU fishing is attractive for some unscrupulous operators as they only pay taxes on the fish that they report and, in many developing countries, the systems are not robust enough to identify them.
While most of those involved in operating vessels do so responsibly and within the law; IUU fishing affects the entire industry as it threatens the sustainability of fish stocks in the ocean, the health of marine ecosystems, and the livelihoods of those who fish legitimately.
IUU is a major issue across the global fishing industry:
This information is extremely powerful – not only does it help guard against IUU, but it also helps us monitor labor standards on vessels and protect stock levels for the future. For example, knowing how many yellowfin tuna are taken from the Indian Ocean by different fishing vessels, will allow the Regional Fishery Management Organization (RFMO) to monitor the stock levels of the species. Take a look at our Responsible Sourcing initiatives to see how traceability is at the heart of our journey towards sustainability.
As part of our journey towards full traceability, we work closely with the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) that has developed the Proactive Vessel Register (PVR). The PVR provides validated information on the steps each vessel is taking to implement sustainability commitments. We are committed to increasing the amount of fish we purchase from PVR listed vessels – in fact, from the start of 2016 all of the large-scale purse seiners we purchase from are registered, and we are actively encouraging all of our suppliers to join.
We will also support the European Commission’s action to create a global fleet register by 2018, which will allocate a unique vessel identifier (an IMO number) to all commercial fishing vessels above 100 gross tonnage.
The creation a consistent IMO identification number scheme across all commercial fishing vessels around the world will facilitate the exchange of vessel information, and support broader monitoring, control and surveillance efforts such as port State measures, catch documentation, transshipment verification, and vessel monitoring systems.
Traceability is the science behind the ‘can tracker’ of our tuna products around the world. The simple code is linked to our brands’ websites, allowing consumers to find out exactly where the fish in their can came from. We are working to improve the digital data collection of our traceability systems. Soon, using innovative electronic systems, Thai Union, its retail customers and consumers will be able to trace every fish in every can – from ocean to plate – at the touch of a button.
Our commitments to improving the standards of the tuna fishing industry extend to the people involved in the business, as well as the fish and the marine environment.
Sadly, it is a fact that in some parts of the world, the rights of workers in the tuna industry have been abused. Thai Union takes reports of human rights abuses in the fishing industry very seriously and we are determined to stamp out illegal and inhumane labor practices wherever they exist. We have zero tolerance of any infringement of workers’ rights and have an extensive plan of action in place under our Safe & Legal Labor program.