Group of 50 seafood suppliers and retailers launch new “can of tuna” to raise awareness of overfished Indian Ocean yellowfin stock
Yesterday at Seafood Expo North America – a major annual event for seafood buyers that takes place in Boston – the Global Tuna Alliance (GTA)* unveiled a new “product,” though one which will never be seen on the supermarket shelves of its partners.
Their fake can of “Overfished Indian Ocean Yellowfin Tuna” aims to raise awareness of the overexploitation of this popular species in the Indian Ocean, which has been overfished since 2015. It was also a launch event for their campaign to implement a rebuilding plan to prevent this stock from disappearing, and restore stock levels within two generations.
Their satirical can doesn’t actually contain tuna, which intends to be poignant in itself. The label, which looks like the real deal, is full of parodic small details: a nutritional advice label that instead displays year-on-year the stock’s overfished status, or the weight of the can which reads “145g out of 81,956t of the yellowfin caught annually in the Indian Ocean above sustainable limits.”
The label also contains an “overfished yellowfin – a product of” label. But rather than a country’s name, the description reads “a product of spurious objections to a rebuilding plan.” This is in reference to the body responsible for regulating tuna fishing in the region, the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC). Despite being close to a rebuilding plan in June 2021 that would have seen a modest catch limit put in place, objections by six countries in the region undermined the majority decision. One worrying element for the industry is that this plan was only meant to be on an interim basis for one year. If a temporary agreement can’t be reached, it does not bode well for the long-term.
The second worrying element was that the IOTC Scientific Committee found that a much bigger cut to catch levels would be needed to secure the future of this stock. Specifically, a 30% reduction in the catch level from 2020 would be required to give a two out of three chance of rebuilding the stock by 2030.
This is what the Global Tuna Alliance is calling for, and they are confident that if the market shouts loud enough, through activations such as this fake tuna can launch, delegations of the IOTC will be forced to listen. Speaking about the GTA’s campaign, its Executive Director, Dr. Tom Pickerell said:
“In 2023, consumers are choosing sustainable products, and the market is finding itself under increasing pressure to deliver. With about a third of all tuna passing through our partners, they have undeniable leverage. A couple of our partners have already pulled their sourcing from the region because of the overfishing of yellowfin tuna.
“Scientists, NGOs, retailers and consumers are all calling on the IOTC to act. The more they delay implementing a rebuilding plan, bigger reductions in catch levels will be needed and the more commercially unviable the region will become.”
David McDiarmid, Corporate Relations Director at Princes, a GTA Partner added:
“There are risks for companies who source Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna, like Princes, in highlighting the poor state of stocks, but as this is an extreme and serious situation, we support the GTA’s approach in shining a light on the mismanagement by the IOTC and the need for urgent catch cuts.”
Dr. Pickerell also criticized the system by which countries are able to object and undermine agreements:
“It’s absurd that countries can simply ‘opt out’ of management measures they don’t like. It renders any plan ineffective and penalizes the ‘good actors’ that are trying to be constructive. Therefore, the GTA is also calling for the IOTC Treaty to be revised, so that spurious objections, offered without rationale or alternatives, can be prevented.”
The IOTC is next meeting in May, with yellowfin tuna expected to be high on the agenda.
Source: Press Release