Fish accounts for nearly 17 percent 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 percent 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.
As one of the world’s largest canned tuna providers we recognize our responsibility to work to ensure that tuna stocks are healthy for generations to come. Providing nutritious seafood and playing our part in combating climate change through supporting dietary shifts, among other measures, is why Thai Union has made a commitment to Healthy Living, Healthy Oceans, of which our Tuna Commitment is a crucial pillar.
Additionally, Thai Union is a member of the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC),and we are focused on contributing to the delivery of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In particular, our Tuna Commitment contributes to SDG 14, Life Below Water.
In December 2016, as part of our SeaChange® sustainability strategy, Thai Union made a commitment for ‘our tuna to be sustainably sourced, with an aim to achieve a minimum of 75 percent of our branded tuna products produced with raw material originating from fisheries that are either Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified or in a Fishery Improvement Program (FIP), by the end of 2020.’ We were pleased to announce that we met this commitment and by the end of 2020, over 87 percent of our branded tuna products were sourced from a FIP or an MSC certified fishery.
In 2021, we are launching an update to the Tuna Commitment which aims to build on our successes from the last five years and look ahead to the next. By 2025, the tuna Thai Union sources will be from vessels and suppliers that demonstrate Operational Best Practice to prevent IUU fishing and modern slavery.
OPERATIONAL BEST PRACTICE for vessels is defined to include the following aspects which will collectively comprise the targets for the monitoring of the 2025 Tuna Commitment:
1. Tuna fisheries that Thai Union sources from are engaged in FIPs towards MSC certification, are in MSC assessment or are MSC certified
2. Vessels have completed Vessel Improvement Plans or meet the VCoC or equivalent
3. Vessels are monitored at sea and have either human or electronic coverage
4. Suppliers and Thai Union operations meet ISSF conservation measures
5. Vessels must report data, meet quota allocations and conservation measures according to RFMO resolutions
6. Tuna is traceable to vessel and the Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceability (GDST) Standard 1.0 is implementable
We are currently developing the interim milestones and targets for the reporting of the 2025 Tuna Commitment. We will continue to engage our key partners, suppliers and stakeholders in this journey that will support collaboration and continuous improvement for the sector.
To review our progress take a look at our Tuna Commitment 2021 Progress Report .
For Thai Union, sustainably sourced tuna is tuna from fisheries that are certified according to standards by the MSC or are in 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 percent 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 toward MSC certification, it enters into a FIP, where all the parties involved commit to improve their fishing operations to ensure 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 toward sustainability.
We also 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.
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 catch to consumption—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.
Unfortunately, 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 work to uphold workers’ rights and have an extensive plan of action in place under our Safe and Legal Labor program.