Whole Foods Commits to Sustainable, Traceable Canned Tuna

Whole Foods Market has committed to making sure that by January 2018, all canned tuna it sells meets rigorous sustainability and traceability requirements to reduce overfishing and bycatch, and support fishing communities. It's the first national retailer to create such stringent standards for canned tuna.

Covering canned tuna sold in both the center store and the prepared food department, the initiative requires all of the products to come from fisheries using only pole-and-line, troll or handline catch methods, all of which take fish one by one, preventing bycatch and creating more jobs in coastal communities. These fisheries must be either certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council or rated green or yellow by the Monterey Bay Aquarium and The Safina Center. The certifications mirror those of the retailer’s existing standards for fresh and frozen seafood.

Additionally, every supplier must use Trace Register, traceability software that tracks each lot of tuna at every point from vessel to can. The traceability data are continuously cross-checked to help verify sourcing and prevent illegally caught or unauthorized fish from entering the supply chain.

“We created this new policy for canned tuna because we want to lead by example in sourcing only the highest-quality, sustainably caught tuna,” said Carrie Brownstein, global seafood quality standards coordinator for Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods. “Combined with better international fishery management, overfishing and bycatch can be greatly reduced when tuna is caught by these low-impact fishing methods. We are honored to be working with suppliers and partners who are driving positive change.”

Leading brands that already source canned tuna from one-by-one fisheries – including American Tuna, Pole and Line, Henry and Lisa’s, Wild Planet and Whole Foods, though its own 365 Everyday Value brand – are updating their operations to meet the policy’s traceability requirements. These measures will also help importers get ahead of the traceability provisions in NOAA’s Seafood Import Monitoring Program, which has a deadline for mandatory compliance by Jan. 1, 2018.

Over the coming months, remaining suppliers will shift their operations and fishing practices to use the approved one-by-one catch methods, which are more environmentally friendly and offer more employment opportunities for fishermen worldwide.

In 2016, Whole Foods introduced its first Fair Trade-certified yellowfin tuna, a designation which ensures better wages and working conditions for fishermen, and provides additional funding to their communities for improvement projects and investments. Fair Trade certification also verifies full supply chain traceability.

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