Tuna is one of the world’s most profitable fish species, with approximately 40 different types occurring in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans, as well as the Mediterranean Sea. However, as a result of its popularity and qualities, tuna is now threatened by an overwhelming demand.

According to the United Nations:

  • Over 7 million tonnes of tuna related species are harvested yearly
  • Tuna species account for 8% of all globally traded seafood

The aim of this article is to highlight the importance of tuna conservation management and reveal the endemic abuse happening at sea, whilst explaining how supply chain software can mitigate environmental and social risk, and protect people from exploitation.

A deeper dive into tuna supply chains

With 69% of British customers eating tuna, it is one of the most widely consumed fish species in the UK. This soaring demand continues to increase the global catch of tuna, heightening the need to not only to reduce our impact on tuna stocks that are already overfished, but to protect and effectively manage those currently in a healthy state. Globally, 65% of tuna stocks are at a healthy level of abundance, 22% are at an intermediate level, while 13% are overfished.

According to the MSC UK and Ireland Market Report 2021, consumers across the UK are becoming increasingly concerned about the challenges facing our oceans.

  • 78% of consumers believe we must consume fish and seafood from sustainable sources only

Yet many retailers are failing to meet customer expectations to sell certified sustainable tuna, despite supply availability growing in recent years.

  • Only 18% of all tuna products on sale in October 2021 were MSC certified

For years, the UK was one of the leading markets in the world when it came to certified sustainable tuna. Recently, however, there has been a reduction in the number of sustainable tuna products available to shoppers. Four years ago, the UK accounted for nearly 17% of the volume of all MSC labelled tuna sold globally. Last year, that figure had dropped to 5%.

Tuna overfishing – Hook, line and sinking

Fisheries and aquaculture offer ample opportunities to reduce hunger and improve nutrition, alleviate poverty, generate economic growth and ensure better use of natural resources. Aquaculture is the fastest-growing food sector and has the potential to produce the fish needed to help meet the demands of a growing population. Nevertheless, overfishing threatens livelihoods, unmanaged aquaculture expansion can cause pollution and rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere contribute to ocean acidification.

  • The world has failed to meet an international target to end overfishing of the seas by 2020
  • 33.3 percent of the stocks are estimated to be fished at biologically unsustainable levels

Many countries depend heavily on tuna resources for food security and nutrition, economic development, employment, government revenue, livelihoods, culture, and recreation.

A Pacific problem

Many of the world’s fishing grounds are located in the Pacific, which are rife with allegations of abuse – human trafficking, debt bondage, withheld wages, physical and sexual abuse, extreme sleep deprivation, medical neglect and even murder. In some instances, fishers have reportedly been held captive at sea for years at a time.

  • 80% of tuna companies don’t know who caught their fish, putting workers in the industry at risk from exploitation. Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC)

Food businesses are under increased pressure from governments, NGOs and consumers to reveal what actions they are taking to ensure their supply chains are free from slavery.

But worryingly few are making strides to meaningfully resolve the challenges of slavery at sea through effective processes. Now, more than ever, companies must exercise extreme vigilance about how and where they source their fish. The need for robust and meaningful human rights due diligence processes and practices to uncover abuse and safeguard the wellbeing of workers in supply chains has never been more pressing.

Plenty of oppo-tuna-ty for sustainable supply chains

The growing public concern for our oceans and awareness of sustainability is driving a new wave of activism. The power of collaboration is essential if we are to deliver best practice international fisheries management.

The Authenticate supply chain transparency platform can help retailers, manufacturers and producers to mitigate risk, whilst protecting vulnerable people from exploitation with a range of digital tools including:

  • Supply Chain Mapping – See the scale of supply chains for full transparency
  • Certifications – Automate supplier checks against leading assurance schemes including MSC and ASC
  • Digital Audits & Assessments – Create bespoke remote audits to benchmark risk by supplier focusing on anything from animal welfare approaches to human rights due diligence
  • KPIs – Understand performance to identify risk and drive improvements in key areas

Want to ride the wave and implement transparent and ethical tuna supply chains? Get in touch with the team to find out more.

For more information on the Authenticate platform or to discuss your challenges and requirements, get in touch with the team.