Tuna is a major source of dietary protein as well as a convenient, affordable and delicious seafood option enjoyed in millions of households around the world. In an increasingly environmentally aware era, however, the sustainability of canned tuna has become an important issue for many consumers. Many producers now prioritize their commitment to protect the ocean; minimizing the ecological impact of tuna fishing through responsible sourcing.
Why Sustainability is Important
Tuna is a very popular product, and high demand has led to fears of stock depletion. None of the species available in canned tuna in Canada are in danger (Clover Leaf, 2014a). However, in order to maintain a healthy ecosystem and ensure the long-term health of tuna stocks, a global alliance of experienced fisheries scientists, top tuna processors and the World Wildlife Fund – the leading worldwide conservation organization - was formed in 2009 under the moniker ‘International Seafood Sustainability Foundation’ (ISSF).
One of the founding members of ISSF is Clover Leaf Seafoods, a company which has prioritized tuna sustainability by committing resources to science-based endeavours aimed at ensuring the future health of tuna stocks and ocean ecosystems.
Through the ISSF, Clover Leaf has undertaken a variety of scientifically informed measures to maintain the ongoing viability of the tuna industry, including the following:
- Providing transparent and traceable tuna products. Clover Leaf will cease participation in fisheries where overfishing is occurring, and the fishery is overfished and management actions are not in place to return the fishery to a sustainable state.
- Where fisheries lack data and/or robust management, Clover Leaf will work with the fisheries to develop improvement plans.
- A commitment to bycatch reduction i.e. the untargeted catch of other living marine resource as a result of fishing practices.
- Sourcing tuna from companies with a policy that prohibits shark finning as well as large-scale drift nets, in accordance with the UN ban.
- Refusing to deal with vessels engaged in illegal, unreported or unregulated (IUU) fishing, all of which threaten tuna stocks and undermine attempts to monitor and control fish stock data accurately.
The ISSF plays a very important role in the struggle against IUU by collaborating with the Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) to track and monitor all tuna fishing by enforcing the use of unique vessel identifying numbers (UVIs), such as an International Maritime Organization or IMO number. At the end of 2011, only 12% of large-scale purse seine vessels targeting tropical tuna had UVI numbers; this year (2014) they are used by 90% of vessels (ISSF, 2014a). Trials for improved vessel monitoring and record maintenance are also designed and funded with help from the ISSF (ISSF, 2014b). The consequences of improved tracking are better data collection which in turn leads to better management of fish stocks and a more sustainable end product.
In addition to this, Clover Leaf has also implemented improvement and/or management programs in fisheries from which 95% of their seafood species are sourced (Clover Leaf, 2014b). This includes an education and information campaign in order to continuously assess and improve the sustainability of the product. Ultimately, Clover Leaf will only source tuna from fisheries deemed sustainable by the ISSF.
The combined efforts of the RFMOs and the ISSF, in conjunction with proactive companies such as Clover Leaf, is good news for the consumer, with the ultimate aim of the ISSF being to completely remove the option of unsustainable tuna from the market. For now though, Clover Leaf’s commitment to a scientific approach, increased transparency and traceability results in a more sustainable and high quality product that will remain available for future generations to enjoy.