Princes has announced the next phase of its tuna sustainability commitments with an action plan to source tuna caught using fishing methods that have the lowest possible levels of by-catch.
The plan aims to reduce the use of fish aggregation devices (FADs).
These floating objects, often made from bamboo and other natural materials, are used by fishermen in open ocean waters to attract shoals of tuna.
However, other non-target species can be attracted to FADs and landed unintentionally alongside tuna as by-catch.
The food and drink group is aiming to purchase all of its tuna from pole and line and FAD-free sources by the end of 2014.
Princes, which does not own or operate any fishing boats, is in discussions with its suppliers to increase the availability and supply of tuna caught using the purse seine net method without the use of FADs.
The company believes that creating new market demand for FAD-free tuna is an important step towards achieving lower by-catch rates across the global industry.
Mike Easterbrook, Deputy Managing Director and Chief Executive Commercial of Princes, said:
“Our action plan is a major commitment that will require significant change within the supply chain.
“By setting out a four-year plan and sharing our progress with others in the industry, we hope to encourage other major tuna purchasers to follow our lead.”
As part of its action plan, Princes will be engaging with industry groups and NGOs such as the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF), Earth Island Institute (EII), WWF and Greenpeace.
The initial steps will see Princes launch a range of pole and line caught tuna in the UK this summer.
The company has also pledged to support the creation of a Pacific Commons marine reserve and has established new supply agreements with FAD-free tuna fisheries.
Princes is also strengthening its existing support for initiatives which aim to mitigate the by-catch associated with purse seine fishing on FADs.
This includes backing projects being undertaken by the ISSF and its own direct engagement with suppliers.
The company expects that significant progress will also be made on by-catch mitigation during the next four-years to improve the sustainability of purse seine FAD caught tuna.
Mike Easterbrook continued: “There’s a growing consensus in the industry and NGO community that the expansion of the pole and line fishing method must be carefully managed and take place at sustainable levels.
“Our intention is to seek to increase the availability of FAD-free tuna alongside pole and line.
“We think this is a balanced approach that offers the most sustainable long term solution to reducing by-catch associated with tuna fishing.”