Demand For Sustainable Skipjack Goes Global

The global demand for Pacifical skipjack tuna is becoming obvious as major Australian food retailer, Coles Supermarkets, echoes European grocery chains this week in its quest for a sustainable supply of the canned fish.

“We are impressed with the PNA MSC certification and disheartened that, as yet, no MSC certified skipjack tuna is available for us to purchase,” writes John Durkan, the company’s merchandise director, in a public letter released today. Coles has 18.6 million customer transactions each week, making it one of the fastest growing food retailers in the world.

With more than 740 stores nationwide and a commitment to only sell sustainably sourced seafood by 2015, the company wants to ensure all of its canned tuna products – Coles’ most popular seafood item – carry the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) blue-and-white guarantee.

“We presently sell two lines of MSC white albacore tuna caught in the South West Pacific Ocean off New Zealand and are keen to extend our MSC canned fish offer, as canned tuna is our biggest selling seafood item,” says Durkan.

Since October, leading retailers in Europe have been expressing their frustration with the complete lack of supply that was first expected in the summer. Now, Coles too is appealing to the boat owners and other industry players in the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) region to fix the problem.

“We urge fishermen, processors and canners handling PNA skipjack tuna to commence fishing in accordance with the MSC chain of custody program to meet our supply demands,” says Durkan.

The PNA free school purse seine skipjack fishery in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean was certified about a year ago, but the mostly foreign fishermen operating in the area are not motivated to fish sustainably. As a result, the fishery is still missing its Chain of Custody (COC) certification and Pacifical tuna – the cobrand for the sustainable skipjack – cannot be delivered to the market. COC is necessary because it ensures the MSC certified catch is kept separate from the non-certified tuna throughout the entire supply chain.

Besides Coles in Australia, major retailers in Switzerland (Coop), Austria (SPAR) and Denmark (Dansk) have publicly declared their need for Pacifical canned tuna in recent months. They all plan to offer the sustainable products under their private label brands, with each tuna can bearing the Pacifical logo on top.

“We are very pleased with the flood of support from our retail partners and we hope the boat owners will finally get the message. There is global demand for MSC skipjack tuna and the fishermen cannot ignore it any longer. They need to act now,” says Cynthia Gonzalez, Pacifical’s marketing and communications manager.

The boat owners fishing in PNA waters – home to 50% of the world’s skipjack tuna – continue to use fish-aggregating devices (FADS) which kill vast amounts of other ocean life incidentally. Pacifical values the entire ecosystem and believes only free swimming schools of mature skipjack should be targeted to ensure the future health of marine populations, including tuna, sharks and sea turtles.