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Tuna Company Leads Call For Restoration Of Endangered Species

tuna species restoration

SFP study finds loss of biodiversity in longline tuna fisheries

Boston-based Thai Union Group PLC, a seafood producer of shelf-stable tuna products, has announced its commitment to only source from vessels that are implementing best practices to protect ocean wildlife from bycatch.

Thai Union’s action is based on research by Sustainable Fisheries Partnership on the risks to sharks, seabirds, turtles and other marine wildlife in the fisheries that supply the company and an analysis by Key Traceability of Thai Union’s tuna fishery improvement projects and in the highest risk fisheries that were identified in the audit.

“Environmental organizations are pointing to the biodiversity and species loss crisis that the planet is facing. The report by SFP notes the significant loss of ETP species in the Western Central Pacific Ocean region,” said Adam Brennan, group director of sustainability at Thai Union.

“We want to do more to ensure that we are sourcing from vessels that are doing everything they can to avoid and reduce bycatch.”

Thai Union is most known for its tuna brands, including Chicken of the Sea and John West. As part of a panel at Seafood Expo North America, Thai Union highlighted a new 2030 commitment for its fisheries, building on its larger seafood sustainability efforts.

Specifically, Thai Union will:

  • By 2030, all vessels to implement best practices to protect endangered, threatened and protected species; and
  • Fulfill its commitment (by 2025) of 100 percent observer coverage (human or electronic) on tuna vessels through direct work with its suppliers and service providers.

“Biodiversity loss is the greatest threat to fisheries sustainability,” said Kathryn Novak, biodiversity and nature director at SFP. “Thai Union is setting new expectations for the seafood industry to protect endangered, protected and threatened species by looking at their supply chains and only sourcing from vessels actively working to address bycatch.” 

A recent report by SFP found a loss of nature and the decline of an estimated 70 percent of several species of shark, seabird and sea turtle populations. This region provides more than 50 percent of the world’s tuna production. As a result, tuna buyers are well-positioned to drive improvements to restore nature loss and rebuild populations of vulnerable marine wildlife.

Thai Union’s “bycatch audit” was undertaken as part of SFP’s Protecting Ocean Wildlife initiative, an international, industry-led effort to address marine wildlife bycatch. The research identified tuna longline fisheries as high risk for sharks, sea birds and sea turtles and recommends implementing more gear modifications to reduce the interaction rate and mortality risks associated with these fisheries.

The research also found insufficient observer coverage in Pacific Ocean fisheries, consistent with Thai Union’s commitment for 100 percent observer coverage in its tuna fisheries.

Key Traceability examined if best practices to reduce bycatch are being taken by vessels in Thai Union’s fishery improvement projects. The analysis found that many of these fisheries have documented actions around ETP management and meet or exceed the audit report recommendations.

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