Eight of the world’s major seafood companies have signed up to a ten-point ocean stewardship plan to try to boost traceability and crack down on illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in their supply chains.

Under the plan, announced today (14 December), the companies say they will create a new initiative – Seafood Business for Ocean Stewardship – that will, “for the first time, connect wild capture fisheries to aquaculture businesses, connect European and North American companies to Asian companies and connect the global seafood business to science”.

The heads of Maruha Nichiro, Nippon Suisan Kaisha, Thai Union Group, Marine Harvest, Dongwon Industries, Skretting owner Nutreco, Cargill and Mitsubishi Corp. subsidiary Cermaq, who signed the plan in the Maldives, also pledged to improve transparency and traceability and reduce illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in their supply chains. The move represents “a new approach to engage major international businesses in global sustainability challenges”, the companies said in a statement.

Antibiotic use in aquaculture, greenhouse gas emissions and plastic pollution will also now be prioritised, according to the companies. In addition, the firms have pledged to “eliminating any products in their supply chains that may have been obtained through modern slavery including forced, bonded and child labour”.

Marine Stewardship Council CEO Rupert Howes said: “The founding signatories acknowledge the profound challenges humanity faces, endorse the UN sustainable development goals and commit to doing all they can, collectively, to both continue and increase their contribution to meeting the protein needs of a growing population on a finite planet.”

Will McCallum, head of oceans at Greenpeace UK, told just-food: “Dialogue is all very well, but Greenpeace will continue to judge companies on their actions not words. This move is welcomed on the proviso that it leads to genuine change on the water rather than being used by the companies involved to mask their less impressive achievements.”

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Thai Union, owner of seafood brands such as John West and Chicken of the Sea, this week committed to sourcing 100% of its branded tuna from fisheries certified by the MSC or taking part in programmes moving them towards MSC certification.

Greenpeace welcomed that announcement by Thai Union, but called on the seafood firm and others to make “investments that amount to real change for oceans and workers”.