US-based grocery chain Whole Foods Market has committed to only purchasing tuna caught using one-by-one methods, by January 2018.
All canned tuna sold at Whole Foods will meet “rigorous sustainability and traceability requirements that aim to reduce overfishing and bycatch, and support fishing communities”, it said.
The new sourcing policy includes canned tuna items sold in the grocery aisle as well as the prepared foods department. Whole Foods becomes the first US national retailer to create such stringent standards for canned tuna, it added.
Under the new policy, all canned tuna at Whole Foods must come from fisheries using only pole-and-line, troll, or handline catch methods, all of which take fish one-by-one. These fisheries must either be certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) or rated green or yellow by the Monterey Bay Aquarium and The Safina Center.
Every supplier must also use Trace Register — traceability software that tracks each lot of tuna at every point from vessel to can. The traceability data are continuously crosschecked to help verify sourcing and prevent illegally caught or unauthorized fish from entering the supply chain.
“We created this new policy for canned tuna because we want to lead by example in sourcing only the highest quality, sustainably caught tuna,” said Carrie Brownstein, global seafood quality standards coordinator for Whole Foods.
“Combined with better international fishery management, overfishing and bycatch can be greatly reduced when tuna is caught by these low-impact fishing methods. We are honored to be working with suppliers and partners who are driving positive change.”
Brands that already source canned tuna from one-by-one fisheries, including 365 Everyday Value, American Tuna, Pole and Line, Henry and Lisa’s, and Wild Planet, are updating their operations to meet the policy’s traceability requirements, said the grocery chain.
These measures are intended to help importers get ahead of the traceability provisions in NOAA’s seafood import monitoring program, which has a deadline for mandatory compliance by Jan. 1, 2018.
“Over the coming months, remaining suppliers will shift their operations and fishing practices to use the approved one-by-one catch methods, which are more environmentally friendly and offer more employment opportunities for fishermen worldwide.”
Shifts toward greater sustainability in this category in the US market can create a meaningful, positive impact on oceans and global fishing communities, said Adam Baske, director of policy and outreach for International Pole and Line Foundation.
Whole Foods’ new canned tuna policy expands on the retailer’s existing sustainability standards for fresh and frozen seafood, which also require that all seafood must either be certified sustainable by the MSC or rated green or yellow by Monterey Bay. Additionally, all of the retailer’s farmed seafood must meet its industry-leading aquaculture standards, which include third-party on-site audits.