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Rapid Growth in MSC Certified Sustainable Tuna in 2020-2021

May 2, 2021

Certified Tuna Fisheries Means Healthy Fish Populations and More Sustainable Options for Consumers 

  • 38% growth in the volume of MSC labeled tuna products, projected to reach 100,000t 
  • Double the global tuna catch engaged in MSC program since 2019-20
  • Majority of commercial tuna stocks at healthy levels of abundance (65%) 
Washington, D.C. – May 2, 2021 - It is increasingly possible for consumers to choose sustainable tuna, new data published by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) shows, with a projected 38% rise in tuna products carrying the MSC ecolabel in 2020-21 [1] alongside a growing number of tuna fisheries committing to be sustainable -- almost 30% of the global tuna catch is now MSC-certified.  

Rapid growth in sustainable tuna, driven by consumer demand, reflects a rise in support in the retail and foodservice sector for sustainably sourced tuna and on-pack labeling. In the past year, some of the global brands that have made strong commitments to sourcing tuna caught by MSC-certified fisheries include Chicken of the Sea, Genova, Natural Value, Walmart Great Value, and Wild Selections.  

The MSC blue fish label, a trusted mark by seafood consumers, is only applied to seafood products from an MSC-certified sustainable source. The tuna in MSC labeled products is from a fishery that has healthy tuna stocks, is well managed, and minimizes impact on the ecosystem.  

Tuna fisheries have worked hard, often across many years, to meet the science-based standard set by the MSC. 65 tuna fisheries are now MSC certified globally, up from 50 in 2019-20, and the majority of the global tuna catch is either certified as sustainable or is working towards that goal. The proportion of the global tuna catch by volume engaged in the MSC program for sustainable fishing doubled from 2019-20 to 2020-21 (26% to 49%), with MSC certified tuna fisheries representing 28.89% and another 20.4% in assessment, up from less than 1% in 2019-20. This is important because… 

A report by the UN published in 2020 found eight tuna stocks had been rebuilt to a healthy level between 2014 to 2019, reducing the number of major tuna stocks experiencing overfishing from 13 to five. More recent data from the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation indicates that the majority of commercial tuna stocks remain at healthy levels of abundance (65%). While 13% of tuna stocks remain below ideal abundance and 22% of stocks are being overfished, tuna stocks are faring better than average as the UN FAO estimates 34.2% of commercial fisheries are overfished.  

The Marine Stewardship Council’s Chief Program Officer, Nicolas Guichoux, says:  

“The growth of MSC certified tuna reflects the achievements of the fisheries committing to sustainability, and by sourcing MSC-certified tuna, businesses in the sustainable seafood supply chain are recognizing and rewarding sustainable tuna fisheries.  

The MSC sustainable tuna handbook, which has been updated for 2021, informs tuna buyers on sourcing sustainable tuna from fisheries that have met the high bar set in the MSC fisheries standard and provides information on the conditions tuna fisheries will need to meet to maintain MSC certification. 

We applaud the progress made by many tuna fisheries on sustainability, but there is more to do. There is an urgent need for almost all regional fishery management organizations (RFMOs) to put in place robust harvest control rules so catch levels can be adjusted in response to scientific data. To retain MSC certification, all tuna fisheries must do this by 2023, which requires concerted international cooperation.” 

The MSC is the only global wild-capture fisheries certification program that simultaneously meets best practice requirements set by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI), and ISEAL, the international code for sustainability systems. 

For more information about MSC certified sustainable tuna, please visit: 

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