Launched at this year’s Seafood Expo North America, the cans of tuna displayed by the Global Tuna Alliance are there to highlight the seriously overfished status of Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna.
The label on the can reads 145g out of 81,956t of the yellowfin caught annually in the Indian Ocean above sustainable limits and instead of a country of origin, the description reads a product of spurious objections to a rebuilding plan.
All this refers to the failure of nations within the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission to agree on measures to regulate fisheries responsibly. Although agreement was almost there in mid-2021 for a stock rebuilding plan that would have seen catch limits put in place, six member nations tabled objections that brought these plans to an end.
This was despite the conclusions of the IOTC Scientific Committee that a much larger 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.
‘It’s absurd that countries can simply opt out of management measures they don’t like. It renders any plan ineffective and penalises 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,’ said GTA executive director DrTom Pickerell.
‘You have to wonder if all the IOTC delegations appreciate the seriousness of the situation.’
The Global Tuna Alliance is seeking to highlight these failures of management, not least as the IOTC will be meeting again in May this year and yellowfin tuna is expected to be high on the agenda. GTA is hoping that if the market shouts loud enough – such as through the fake tuna can launch, delegations of the IOTC will be forced to take notice.
‘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,’ Tom Pickerell said.
‘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.’