Greenpeace ranks Philippine tuna canneries based on sustainable and equitable fisheries guidelines

After months of research and monitoring, Greenpeace Philippines on Thursday released a tuna ranking of nine local canneries based on international sustainable and equitable fisheries guidelines. It found that almost all the local canneries surveyed scored poorly indicating just how the industry is not doing enough to address the problem of rampant illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in the country.

“With our overfished seas, it is necessary that we rank our tuna canneries because they have an important role to play in reversing the decline of our tuna stocks,” said Vince Cinches, Oceans Campaigner for Greenpeace Philippines. “Based on the survey results, almost all of our local canneries are not transparent or do not disclose basic but highly valuable information regarding where they source their tuna and how.”

Canneries were sent a survey by Greenpeace last June and were ranked according to questions on traceability, sustainability and equity. [1] The respondents were then ranked along a good/fair/poor metric. Barely passing and landing first place is Century Canning Corporation, the only company which received a Fair rating. The remaining eight (8) canneries from the Philippines received poor ratings. [2]

The cannery ranking came a year after Greenpeace exposed the rampant catching and trading of juvenile ‘baby’ yellowfin and bigeye tuna at the General Santos fishport. These juvenile tuna were found to be less the average size of 1 meter in length and below the weight limit of 500g set by the Fisheries Administrative Order. Environmentalists and scientists say the continued catching of juvenile tuna contributes to the decline of stocks, not just in the Philippines but globally.

Greenpeace believes that the lack of traceability and transparency measures by canneries is a strong indication that companies are using juvenile tuna in their supply chain.

In 2013, the total international production of tuna reached 7,318,381 tons. Asia produced more than half at 4,769,508 tons. Thirty-nine percent of Asia’s production came from Indonesian and the Philippine fleets at 1,298,091 tons and 556,843 tons, respectively. [3]

Indonesia, Philippines, and Thailand are the major producers and exporters of canned tuna. In 2013, world canned tuna exports reached a staggering value at over USD $8.1 billion. Thailand is No. 1 with 32.63% share of the market, Philippines is No. 4 with a 6.88% share, and Indonesia has a 4.62% market share. [4]

Greenpeace noted a lack of traceability and transparency in the tuna supply chain across the region. It is important that market players, along with the seafood and tuna industry, strengthen traceability measures— even set fair labor standards— by developing publicly-available sourcing policies which should be strictly implemented. [5]

To help drive improvements to the traceability of canned tuna, canneries must ensure that:

Overall, setting these traceability mechanisms allows the Philippines to further comply with the European Union’s regulations to deter IUU fishing. The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Administrative Circular No. 251 has issued the “Traceability System for Fish and Fishery Product” in 2014 [6]- one of the requirements for the lifting of the EU’s yellow card sanction on the Philippines last year.

“We now have a stronger Fisheries Code in place and just like other stakeholders, these tuna canneries should help support it by being compliant and transparent in their business practices,” added Cinches. “They should be open to third-party audits, aside from those conducted by the government. Filipino consumers can also assess and demand that these tuna brands change their ways – to fish more responsibly and sustainably.”

Notes to the Editor:

[1] Traceability criteria allows companies to track their tuna through all parts of the supply chain. Information about exactly where and how the tuna was caught is key to ensuring sourcing requirements are being met. Sustainability criteria emphasizes that companies should have a commitment to selling sustainable tuna through a policy with clear sourcing requirements to exclude tuna from unhealthy stocks, destructive fisheries, and socially irresponsible companies. The equity criteria argues that companies should know who is catching their tuna and how they are being treated.

[2] Executive Summary of Greenpeace Southeast Asia. 2015. Tuna Cannery Ranking. Indonesia and Philippines.

[3] FAO. Global Capture Production. 1950-2013

[4] Sutandinata, H. 2014. Challenges of Indonesian Canned Tuna Industry Toward Sustainable Fisheries. In Proceedings. Bali Tuna Conference 2014. “Mainstreaming Sustainable Tuna Management in the Asia-Pacific”. 19-21 November 2014. Kuta-Bali Indonesia. Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries.

[5] McDowell, Robin, Margie Mason, and Martha Mendoza. “AP Investigation: Are Slaves Catching the Fish You Buy?” AP: The Big Story. N.p., 25 Mar. 2015. Web. 03 June 2015.

[6] BFAR Administrative Circular 251 s. 2014

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