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Rapid global growth in MSC certified sustainable tuna.

  • Majority of commercial tuna stocks at healthy levels of abundance (65%)  
  • Nearly 50% of the global tuna catch is now engaged in the MSC programme 
  • 38% growth in volume of MSC labelled tuna products, projected to reach 100,000t   

It is increasingly possible for consumers around the world to choose sustainable tuna, new data published by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) shows, with a projected 38% rise in tuna products carrying the MSC ecolabel in 2020/21 alongside a growing number of tuna fisheries committing to be sustainable. Almost 30% of the global tuna catch is now MSC certified.

Global growth in sustainable tuna, driven by growing consumer demand, reflects a rise in support from the retail and foodservice  sector for sustainably sourced tuna and on pack labelling. Although markets in Europe and North America have recently overtaken the UK in certified tuna sales Waitrose and Sainsbury’s both offer a range of MSC certified tuna products while Tesco recently made a commitment to have 100% certified tuna by 2025. Waitrose recently became the first UK brand to offer chilled MSC certified tuna to its customers.

In addition, a new YouGov survey conducted for the MSC has revealed that the UK is a nation of tuna lovers, with almost 7 in 10 (69%) of Brits eating tuna. Canned tuna is the most popular way of eating it in the UK, with 94% of tuna eaters eating canned tuna and of this one in five (21%) have it once a week, according to the research.  Some 78% enjoy a tuna sandwich, with one in ten (11%) opting for a tuna sarnie at least once a week. Separate data shows that between June 2019 and June 2020, tuna sales in UK retail increased by 11.8%. 

The YouGov research also shows three quarters of tuna eaters agree that if they knew an independent ecolabel on the packaging would guarantee the tuna had been caught sustainably, they would more likely choose that over a product without an ecolabel.   

The blue MSC ecolabel, trusted by seafood consumers, is only applied to seafood products that can be traced back to an MSC certified sustainable source. Tuna in MSC labelled products is from fisheries that have healthy tuna stocks, are well managed and minimise their impact on the ecosystem.

Tuna fisheries work hard, often across many years, to meet the science based standard set by the MSC. Sixty-five tuna fisheries are now MSC certified, up from 50 in 2019/20, and now the majority of the global tuna catch is either certified as sustainable or is working towards that goal. The proportion of the global tuna catch by volume engaged in the MSC programme for sustainable fishing doubled from 2019-20 to 2020-21 (26% to 49%), with MSC certified tuna fisheries representing 28.89% and another 20.4% in assessment, up from less than 1% in 2019-20.

 A report by the UN published in 2020 found eight tuna stocks had been rebuilt to a healthy level between 2014 to 2019, reducing the number of major tuna stocks experiencing overfishing from 13 to five. More recent data from the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation indicates that the majority of commercial tuna stocks remain at healthy levels of abundance (65%). While 13% of tuna stocks remain below ideal abundance and 22% of stocks are being overfished, tuna stocks are faring better than average as the UN FAO estimates 34.2% of commercial fisheries are overfished.

 Seth McCurry, MSC UK & Ireland Senior Commercial Manager says:

“The growth of MSC certified tuna reflects the achievements of those fisheries committing to sustainability. By sourcing MSC certified tuna, businesses in the seafood supply chain are recognising and rewarding these sustainable tuna fisheries.  

“Our newly updated Sustainable Tuna Handbook is designed as a tool for tuna buyers wishing to source sustainable tuna, and profiles a number of those fisheries that have met the high bar set in the MSC Fisheries Standard. It also provides information on the varied conditions tuna fisheries need to meet to maintain MSC certification, which ultimately drives further positive improvement and impact.   

“This progress made by many tuna fisheries on sustainability should be celebrated, but there is still much to do. We have an urgent need for regional fishery management organisations (RFMOs) to put in place robust harvest control rules so catch levels can be adjusted in response to scientific data. To retain MSC certification, many tuna fisheries must do this by 2023, which requires concerted international cooperation. The supply chain has an important role to play in advocating for this cooperation, as it is doing through organisations like the Global Tuna Alliance (GTA).”

The MSC is the only global wild capture fisheries certification programme that simultaneously meets best practice requirements set by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI) and ISEAL, the international code for sustainability systems.

For more information about MSC certified sustainable tuna, please visit: www.msc.org/tuna   



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