PNA moves to market first sustainable tuna in Europe
Business initiative to command premium price
A three-year effort by the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) is expected to see the region’s first “certified sustainably caught” skipjack tuna products hitting the Europe markets this month.
The latest PNA milestone links a conservation measure—promoting tuna caught without the use of fish aggregation devices (FADs)—to a business initiative that is expected to command a premium price in European and United States markets.
Marine Stewardship Council-labeled skipjack tuna coming from waters of the eight-member PNA countries is ready to supply the global markets for sustainably harvested canned tuna, said PNA Commercial Manager Maurice Brownjohn.
“Within weeks the first skipjack will be landed to end up in cans with the MSC logo and the PNA co-brand Pacifical,” said Brownjohn in early May. These will go on sale in Europe.
Over the past three years, PNA has jumped numerous challenges, including strong objections from United States-based environmental groups with tuna industry ties to gain MSC “chain of custody” certification for the catch, processing and supply of free school (no FADs) skipjack tuna.
Tuna caught without the use of FADs is considered to be a sustainable.
At the late April European Tuna conference in Brussels, Brownjohn promoted the MSC certified tuna, saying this is a world first for the skipjack tuna industry.
This brings a new dimension in consumer information about tuna to the global fish trade, said Brownjohn, who is based in Majuro at the PNA office.
Under the MSC Chain of Custody scheme, consumers can see where and how their tuna was caught—from the boat to their plate.
The certification itself is done by an independent third party to ensure consumers can be confident their tuna came from the source and method of fishing stated on the can, he said.
A key part of PNA’s management program is the 100 percent coverage of purse seiners by trained fisheries observers who monitor and record the catches.
“PNA leaders have recently called on all companies fishing in PNA waters to start to fish tuna that can be certified as sustainable by the MSC to support this project,” Brownjohn said.
“Papua New Guinea has further publically announced they expect all in the industry to now deliver MSC free school skipjack to our associated processors as a term of licence renewal.
“We hope that more companies will participate in the MSC Chain of Custody certification.”
The higher premiums that wholesalers in Europe will pay for sustainably caught tuna is the incentive that PNA is counting on to lure the fishing industry to support the effort.
The Marine Stewardship Council’s website lists “PNA Western and Central Pacific skipjack tuna” as one of 146 fisheries worldwide that have won certification for following sustainable fishing standards.
“To confirm that they operate sustainably, certified fisheries are audited every year and fully reassessed every five years,” the website states.
But there may be some bumps along the road as PNA attempts to launch its new Pacifical brand with the MSC certification.
This fledgling new tuna industry is being harassed for developing this sustainable fishery, according to Brownjohn.
Brownjohn said this is largely due to Earth Island Institute (EII), the U.S.-based non-government organisation that promotes a well-known “Dolphin Safe” eco-label for canned tuna products, threatening to “blacklist” fishing companies, processors, and retailers if they do business with PNA’s new certified Pacifical brand of skipjack.
“We understand Earth Island Institute is issuing alerts to consumers and directing our processors and buyers that Pacifical is not part of its ‘dolphin safe’ program and therefore cannot be traded or be considered ‘dolphin safe,’” said Sylvester Pokajam, Managing Director, National Fisheries Authority of Papua New Guinea.
Brownjohn said PNA refuses to work with Earth Island Institute dolphin safe program because there is no dolphin mortality related to certified skipjack caught without using FADs in the Pacific.
Earth Island Institute “lacks credibility” and is engaged in “restrictive trading practices,” he said.
“Skipjack tuna and dolphins do not swim together as verified by scientists at various tuna commissions,” Brownjohn said, adding PNA’s MSC certified skipjack is fully verified from the net to the retail and fully supported by NGOs like WWF, Greenpeace and PEW Foundation.
“In order for PNA to deliver its MSC certified skipjack tuna to the North American market, major US brands will first need to realize that they must tear down the trade barrier that has been created by Earth Island Institute with which they have been members and supporters for the last two decades,” said Brownjohn.
“The MSC logo not only protects dolphins, but looks after the sustainability of all species in the ocean.
“It’s now time for all the US tuna brands to show how serious they really are about ocean conservation and fulfill the commitments that they have made with the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation to work towards MSC certification for all their tuna products.
“As part of that commitment, a difficult but necessary step for them will be to disengage themselves from an unreliable scheme that is not science-based.
“Only this way can they open the doors to deliver sustainable tuna in their cans.”
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