Marshall Islands joint venture with tuna industry says “sustainability and profitability are not at odds”

07 Oct 2021 — The Republic of the Marshall Islands is spearheading a new industry partnership to help Pacific Islanders participate more equitably in global tuna supply chains.

By partnering with the global conservation organization The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the local fishing industry has launched the Pacific Island Tuna Joint Venture, which intends to redirect 100% of long-term net profits to governments and communities in the Pacific Islands.

“Pacific Island Tuna shows the world that sustainability and profitability are not mutually exclusive, even in an industry that has been challenged by both,” said Gene Muller, Managing Director of Pacific Island Tuna.

“Through close collaboration between resource owners and retailers, we can shape a different and more resilient future for the tuna industry and the communities that depend on it. We are confident that this model will be adopted across the industry, benefiting both people and the planet. “

island cash cow
Tuna are environmentally, economically and culturally important species for Pacific island nations. However, these countries, whose waters are at the heart of the world tuna fishery, have historically been excluded from the full economic profitability of their natural resources.

The RMI economy relies heavily on income from the tuna sector. Almost 90% of its non-aid revenue comes from the tuna industry, but that revenue is only a tiny fraction of the global $ 26 billion canned tuna market, according to TNC.

Pacific Island Tuna aims to help Pacific Island countries gain visibility across the entire supply chain, from dock to distribution.Pacific Island Tuna aims to help Pacific Island countries gain visibility across the entire supply chain, from dock to distribution.

Under the Pacific Island Tuna deal, at least 40% of the company’s net income distributions will directly support community-based conservation and climate resilience projects, including the development and management of marine protected areas and the restoration of Coral reefs.

The remaining 60% of the profits will go to the governments of the Pacific Islands.

“We know that true resilience will come from deep, long-term partnerships centered on people and nature,” said Jennifer Morris, CEO of The Nature Conservancy. “We hope Pacific Island Tuna’s best practices for sustainability will be adopted in fisheries around the world, as a vital step in helping our oceans at a critical time for their health and protection.

Maintaining the fishing industry at a standard
The recent debut of the Netflix documentary Seaspiracy has shed light on the detrimental impact of waste fishing gear on ocean life. Industry action to improve the environmental credentials of sea-caught products has since dominated the public interest.

Pacific Island Tuna is demanding a ban on the use of fish aggregating devices to reduce the bycatch of juvenile tunas and species at risk such as sharks and turtles.

Meanwhile, dockside unloading – Pacific Island Tuna’s requirement that all fish pass through a port in the Pacific to verify catch volumes – eliminates the possibility of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and offers workers on fishing vessels the added safety measure of being able to leave the vessel if necessary.

These standards are validated by Pacific Island Tuna’s commitment to 100% water transparency through human observers and electronic surveillance (EM) coverage on all fishing vessels.

EM’s incentive to comply is that fishermen face the possibility of losing Pacific Island Tuna’s business if EM footage reveals that they have violated its standards.

Big waves in retail
Retail giant Walmart recently selected Pacific Island Tuna to supply it with canned skipjack tuna certified by the Marine Stewardship Council for its private label, Great Value.

“We are honored to be working with an innovative partner like TNC and a major retailer like Walmart on this transformative business venture, which will promote the economic and conservation development of our beloved country,” commented RMI President David Kabua.

“This approach maximizes the benefits for our employees, who will see investments in climate resilience, additional income for associated businesses and the creation of new employment opportunities on land and on the water. We are also excited about the catalytic impact this agreement will have on the global fishing industry, ”he continues.

“We believe more retailers will follow suit and commit to being transparent in their seafood supply chains, while also seeing the value of working directly with the most people and communities. affected. “

By Benjamin Ferrer

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