Tesco takes action to improve marine sustainability, moving to a Seascape approach for tuna sourcing

Tesco has joined WWF in advocating for a Seascape approach to marine sustainability, which is designed to ensure whole marine ecosystems are maintained in a healthy, productive way.

The retailer will first adopt the Seascape approach for its tuna sourcing and has set out a roadmap to transition to ecosystem-based fisheries management by 2030.

Despite improvements in fisheries management, marine biodiversity continues to be at risk from overfishing, with 94% of all fish stocks either overfished or at a maximum sustainable level. Amongst the species most as risk is tuna, which is integral to the diets of millions of people across the globe.

The new approach will see Tesco work in partnership with its own brand suppliers from this year to introduce new due diligence processes within its tuna supply chain, helping them to achieve its goal of 100% MSC certification across its tuna ranges by 2025. The supermarket will also continue to support Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs), initiatives that aim to help fisheries work towards MSC certification.

Tesco will work with partners like WWF and its suppliers to encourage the industry-wide adoption of the SSB40 metric to report on the health of fish stocks.  The metric will allow Tesco and its suppliers to know if their fish is being sourced from a marine environment in which the amount of breeding fish present is at least 40% of the amount in the original populations, a key component of maintaining healthy marine ecosystems. 

The new approach was developed by Tesco and WWF in consultation with tuna experts and suppliers, and has been specifically designed to align with and build on existing tools and guidelines already widely used by the industry. This includes the guidelines of the Global Tuna Alliance (GTA) and the NGO Tuna Forum, and existing certifications and ratings from trusted bodies such as the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and the Marine Conservation Society’s Good Fish Guide. 

Ashwin Prasad, Chief Product Officer, Tesco said:

“Tuna is such an important species when it comes to the health of our marine environment, but it is still being overfished. This new approach to tuna sourcing, developed in partnership with WWF, will play a critical role in regenerating tuna stocks, while maintaining whole marine ecosystems for future generations. We’ll be working with our suppliers and others across the industry to implement the roadmap, as well as advocating for this approach to be used across other key species as well.”

Marcel Kroese, WWF Global Tuna Leader said:

“Mining down tuna stocks has undermined the vital role these large fish play in in the ecosystem. We need a new holistic seascape approach with sustainable tuna sourcing. Our analyses indicate that stocks where the number of mature ‘spawning’ tuna are at least 40% or higher, as a proportion of their original spawning levels, can act as a buffer against the uncertainty of the impact of climate change and still provide fish for us to eat.

 “Unsustainable practices to feed a growing population is wreaking havoc on the planet and urgent action is needed.  Businesses at the heart of the food industry all have a responsibility to transform the sustainability of our food, so we are excited that Tesco is the first retailer in the UK to deliver a new roadmap which will see it work with its suppliers to bring them on board to WWF’s new sustainable tuna recommendations.”

Charles Clover, Executive Director, Blue Marine Foundation said:

“We welcome the leadership shown by Tesco with this plan – a seascape or ecosystem-based approach should see whole marine environments protected from overfishing and ensure species like tuna can be managed sustainably. We must align other key members of the supply chain, especially processors, around this approach so that no tuna that reaches our shelves is caught irresponsibly or unsustainably.”

 George Clark, MSC Programme Director UK & Ireland said:

“Tesco’s decision to reform its tuna sourcing policy comes at a time when strong and coordinated efforts are required to ensure we have sustainable fisheries for future generations. A large range of Tesco’s wild fish and seafood products currently bear the MSC ecolabel and as tuna is one of the most popular seafood choices with shoppers, we welcome this commitment to 100% MSC labelling of tuna by 2025. MSC commissioned research shows almost three-quarters of seafood consumers believe we should only eat seafood from sustainable sources, so Tesco’s pledge is in line with growing public demand for certified sustainable seafood which can help end over-fishing and protect marine biodiversity.”

Tesco is working in partnership with WWF to halve the environmental impact of the average UK shopping basket. Making the average shopping basket more sustainable requires action across various environmental impact areas, including marine sustainability. It is hoped the adoption of the Tuna Transition Roadmap will help Tesco achieve its aim of sourcing all its wild fish sustainably and help to halve the environmental impact of the average shopping basket.

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