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MSC-certified skipjack tuna. (Photo: Pacifical/FIS)

Retailer asks PNA to source MSC-certified skipjack tuna

Click on the flag for more information about Austria AUSTRIA
Thursday, November 01, 2012, 22:40 (GMT + 9)

One of the largest retailers in Austria is calling on canneries in the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) countries to start producing Marine Stewardship Council- (MSC) certified skipjack tuna. The public action coincides with a statement issued last week by Anova Seafood, a major distributor of fresh and frozen fish that urged tuna boat owners operating in the PNA region to start catching sustainably.

Spar Austria, which has about 2,800 stores in Austria and six other European countries, initially expected to have the sustainable PNA canned skipjack tuna – co-branded as “Pacifical” – on its shelves in the summer, but both fishermen and processors in the region are not cooperating and the first shipment has yet to arrive. For Spar canned skipjack tuna is one of their major fish products.

Back in December 2011, the PNA free school purse seine skipjack fishery gained the approval of the highly-respected MSC eco-label. Nearly a year later, however, the fishery is still waiting for its Chain of Custody certification, which guarantees the MSC certified tuna is caught without fish-aggregation devices (FADs) and is kept separate from non-certified catch throughout the entire supply chain.

The lack of sustainable commitments from the local canneries and fishing companies means the future for MSC canned skipjack tuna is uncertain.

“Half a year ago, we thought we would have the product on the shelf in January 2013. Now I’m not even sure if we can get it in the first quarter of 2013. I have a really bad feeling about that,” says Christian Eberl, Spar Austria’s purchaser.

As the largest supplier of fresh fish in Austria, the retailer is committed to offering its customers a complete range of sustainable fish products. By 2013, all of its fish products – including canned skipjack tuna – need to be MSC certified.

“Spar has its own commitments and we are telling that to our customers, that all our products are responsibly caught,” says Eberl.

Consumers in Austria, in fact, prefer to buy items with the MSC blue-and-white logo, says Carmen Wieser, Spar Austria’s manager of corporate social responsibility. For years, Spar has partnered with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to promote the credible MSC eco-label and to educate the public about the importance of sustainable shopping.

Wieser says the heightened awareness has had a “snowball effect” on today’s market – Austrian consumers are now taking the time to examine products to purposefully buy ones with the MSC label.

Spar Austria has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the marketing company of the PNA countries, Pacifical cv, on the supply of MSC certified canned skipjack tuna. Once this sustainable supply becomes available, the retailer plans to sell the tuna cans under its own label, Spar Brand, but each can will have the Pacifical co-brand on top.

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