Bumble Bee Foods, Clover Leaf Seafoods and Ocean Outcomes have launched a new longline tuna fishery improvement project (FIP) focused on improving fishing practices for approximately 200 Chinese and Chinese Taipei longline albacore and yellowfin tuna fishing vessels in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. A primary focus on the FIP is to improve data collection by incraesing electronic observer coverage of vessels over time, with a long-term goal of 100 percent coverage. Expanding observer coverage will help drive the fisheries toward the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard.
“FCF is proud to start working with a large section of the longline industry to improve data, reporting, and bycatch mitigation” said Fong Lee, Sustainability Officer at FCF. “As a leading tuna supplier globally, we’re uniquely positioned to support practical and durable solutions towards sustainable tuna.”
The project's vessels catch 15,000 metric tons of albacore and yellowfin tuna annually, much of which is canned and exported to North American markets by Bumble Bee. While the albacore and yellowfin tuna stocks are considered healthy, both stocks are subject to increasing fishing pressure.
Currently, fishery observers gather first-hand data on what's caught and thrown back. Observers also support compliance with fishing and safety regulations. However, observer coverage is currently occurring in a small subset of longliners. By expanding coverage electronically to participating FIP vessels, Bumble Bee and FIP participants will support effective fisheries management practices through better data collection.
“Longline albacore and yellowfin landed in Fiji are a vital part of Bumble Bee’s supply chain,” says Mike Kraft, Vice President Global Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility, Bumble Bee Foods. “The FIP team has developed a strong workplan, identifying actions that will move the fishery towards the MSC fisheries standard. We are very excited about this project and we look forward to the challenging work ahead of us.”
The quantitative data and reporting procedures generated by FIP activities will eventually be used to monitor fisheries, assess fish populations, and inform science-based management for target, bycatch and threatened species at the regional level.
Within five years, the FIP will work with the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, which oversees the management of tuna regionally, to develop and implement robust and precautionary harvest strategies which are responsive to statuses of target stocks, including best practice harvest control rules to reduce exploitation rate as needed.
“This is not just an exciting development for large-scale improvements towards sustainability in tuna fishing, it’s also a bold and very forward-looking move from FCF and Bumble Bee. Without their commitment to a sustainable future, a project of this scale would not be possible,” added Ross Wanless, Asia Tuna Manager for O2.
This FIP is one of two projects between Bumble Bee, FCF and O2 focused on ensuring sustainable Chinese and Chinese Taipei longline fisheries; the other is in development for longline vessels in the Indian Ocean. The goal of both FIPs is to achieve a certifiable status by mid-2024.