South Africa’s Pick n Pay Wants Skipjack With “Gold Standard”

The global demand for MSC sustainable skipjack tuna has now also reached Africa. Today South Africa’s largest retailer – Pick n Pay – announced its urgent need for Pacifical tuna. This tuna is approved by the MSC, which Pick n Pay considers to be the “gold standard” in seafood sustainability certification.

In a public letter, the company is calling on fishermen and processors to start the supply of sustainable tuna from the waters of eight Pacific island countries – known as the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) – which are home to a skipjack fishery that meets the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) eco-label standard. This letter is the latest in a series of similar efforts by major European and Australian retailers, who are also disappointed with the region’s complete lack of certified product – co-branded as Pacifical – that was first expected in the summer.

Pick n Pay is one of Africa’s most successful retailers – generating an annual turnover of USD 6.4 billion – and it is also Africa’s most sustainable. In fact, the company is the only retailer in Africa with a seafood commitment to change its sourcing practices. By the end of 2015, it promises to only stock wild-caught seafood products, including tuna, that are MSC certified – which it describes as “the gold standard” for sustainability in wild capture fisheries.

The retailer also partnered with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) eight years ago to launch the WWF’s Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) and it continues to promote SASSI’s main objectives, including shifting consumer demand away from over-exploited species to sustainable alternatives. Pick n Pay uses the SASSI traffic light system in its stores to educate consumers about seafood products that are sustainable (green) and of concern (orange). It does not sell any “red”-listed products.

Bronwen Rohland, Pick n Pay’s marketing and sustainability director, writes canned skipjack tuna is an important seafood item in their stores and they wish to see it supplied from a sustainable source.

Once the first shipment of the PNA’s sustainably certified tuna is received, Pick n Pay plans to offer it under its private label brand to South African consumers. Each tuna can will also bear the Pacifical logo on top to recognize the origin of the fish.

The PNA free school purse seine skipjack fishery in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean was certified a year ago, but the mostly foreign fishermen operating in the area in 2012 have been hardly motivated to fish sustainably. The fishermen are largely from developed nations such as Taiwan, Japan, Spain, United Sates, and Korea, and they are still catching with fish-aggregating devices.

Recent news from the PNA indicates that final initiatives to get the MSC CoC certified are now on their way. Following the recent pressure from the market for MSC tuna, the first boat owners have shown sincere interest to cooperate on finalizing the procedures leading to the MSC CoC certification. Audits are expected to start soon and continue during the first 2 months of 2013.