Princes UK commits to 100% MSC-certified sustainable tuna sourcing by 2025

  • Group says time is right to make commitment on its iconic brand
  • Milestone will represent 75 million cans of MSC-certified Princes tuna per year, and
  • Five times more certified sustainable tuna will be available in the UK, based on current volumes
  • Premiums for certified sustainable expected to level with standard pricing of tuna as volumes rise

International food and drink group, Princes, has announced an ambitious roadmap to source and sell 100% of its UK Princes branded tuna from Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified sustainable fisheries by the end of 2025. 

The roadmap includes three key milestones, which will see Princes increase MSC labelled tuna products to 25% by the end of 2023, 50% in 2024 and 100% by the end of 2025. Achieving the 100% milestone represents 75 million cans (11,000 tonnes) of MSC-certified tuna per year under the Princes brand – meaning the amount of certified sustainable tuna available in the UK will increase by five times, based on current volumes.

Source fisheries will include newly MSC certified fleets, in addition to the Group’s existing MSC certified suppliers. Princes has been supporting Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs) for over five years, with many of these now maturing and meeting MSC standards.

To become MSC certified, fisheries are rigorously assessed by independent certification bodies in compliance with MSC Fisheries Standard requirements across three key principles: only fishing healthy stocks; good management so stocks can be fished for the long-term; and minimising the impacts on other species and the wider ecosystem.

While there is a premium for MSC-certified tuna at present, this is expected to level with the standard pricing of all tuna products in time, as certified sustainable volumes rise and become the norm across the UK market. 

Neil Bohannon, Group Director for Seafood at Princes, said: “As one of the UK’s largest tuna brands, we are committed to supporting the long-term sustainability of tuna stocks, and recognise the important role we have to play in advocating for continued improvements in fishing practices and positive change.

“That is why we committed to only purchasing tuna from fisheries that are MSC certified, engaged in a FIP (Fishery Improvement Project) working towards MSC certification, or from verified and well managed FAD Free or Pole and Line sources – achieving this longstanding ambition in 2021 – and now we’re going a step further.

“Our 100% MSC-certified sustainable sourcing goal is another ambitious target, but one that we are confident in reaching through continued investment and engagement with retailers, fisheries, NGOs and other industry players.”

MSC certification is the most globally recognised standard for seafood sustainability and demonstrates that a fishery meets international best practices for sustainable fishing. Fish and seafood from certified fisheries carry the blue MSC eco label, assuring customers that what they’re buying is sustainable.

However, while more global fisheries are achieving MSC certification, and global sales of MSC-labelled tuna hit over 100,000 tonnes for the first time last year, the volume of MSC-certified tuna products sold in the UK decreased by 12% against 2020 [MSC Tuna Shopper Report – 2021]

Neil Bohannon added: “Important progress has been made by global fisheries to achieve MSC standards in recent years, however brands and retailers also have a crucial role to play in advancing seafood sustainability by making more certified sustainable products available to shoppers. Consumers want reassurance that the fish they are eating has been sourced sustainably and MSC certification is the best way of doing this.”

George Clark, Programme Director, UK & Ireland at the Marine Stewardship Council, said: “The MSC has set a target of engaging more than a third of the world’s marine catch in our programme by 2030. This ambitious but necessary target can only be achieved with the support of a global network of committed partners, who can help drive the sustainable seafood movement forward and deliver real, positive impacts and change on the water.

“This announcement from Princes demonstrates great leadership and support for that goal. In addition to their advocacy efforts for sustainable tuna fisheries management, Princes are actively supporting UK tuna shoppers that are looking for sustainable products, and who will now have more certified sustainable canned tuna options than ever before. In fact, based on current figures, this commitment will mean there will be five times more certified sustainable tuna available in the UK, compared to now, in just over three years’ time.”

This commitment follows the achievement of a long-standing ambition in 2021, to responsibly source all branded tuna from either a FIP or MSC-certified source. Last year, Princes also announced it had reached its goal of reducing Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna sourcing by 50% on 2017 levels, a year ahead of its 2022 deadline, to support the long-term sustainability of the stock.

Tom Pickerell, Executive Director of the Global Tuna Alliance (GTA), said: “Tuna is one of world’s most popular seafood, and with this demand comes increased pressure on tuna stocks and associated ecosystems. The Global Tuna Alliance’s 5-year strategy (2021-2025) includes a recommendation that Partners commit to sourcing tuna from fisheries with a GSSI-recognized certification. This ambitious announcement by Princes meets that target and puts pressure on producers and managers to ensure that tuna products can be sourced from fisheries that employ science-based management plans and measures to ensure that impacts of fisheries on the environment are acceptable.”

In 2019, Princes was one of the founding partners of Senegal pole and line tuna FIP in Senegal. This followed Princes’ investment as a founding member of the Sustainable Indian Ocean Tuna Initiative (SIOTI), a partnership of tuna processors, vessel owners, government agencies and WWF to help the purse seine fishery in the region meet MSC sustainability standards.

Princes is also a founding partner of the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF), established in 2009, and plays an active leadership role in the organisation’s important work and projects to advance the sustainability of tuna stocks and their ecosystems through a science-based research approach. Additionally, Princes’ two tuna processing sites in Mauritius are MSC Chain of Custody certified.