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Walmart, Albertsons Among 1st to Sign Tuna Transparency Pledge

Initiative aims to achieve 100% monitoring of vessels in tuna supply chains by 2027
Ivan Sesebo Commercial Fishing Observer Main Image
Ivan Sesebo is a human observer who monitors commercial fishing on longline tuna vessels. (Image credit: Jonne Roriz)

Retailers Walmart and Albertsons Cos., along with Thai Union, Belize and the Federated States of Micronesia, have become the first signatories of a new global initiative from The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to end unsustainable and illegal tuna fishing practices. Under the Tuna Transparency Pledge, the signatories aim to advance 100% on-the-water monitoring across all industrial tuna fishing vessels within their supply chains or jurisdictions by 2027.

“The absence of transparency at sea allows for IUU  [illegal, unreported, and unregulated] caught fish to enter the supply chain undetected,” explained Ben Gilmer, large-scale fisheries director for TNC, a global non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Arlington, Va. “We cannot afford to ignore the urgent need for action to protect ocean wildlife and fish stocks, and — in turn — the people they feed and the communities that rely on them. On-the-water monitoring technology is ready to scale today, which helps ensure that the seafood on shelves has been harvested in compliance with fishery laws. The new Tuna Transparency Pledge will help drive market transformation that can help guarantee a long-term and sustainable seafood supply.”

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TNC’s goal with the pledge aims to unite key players across the seafood supply chain — companies and governments alike — to help ramp up the adoption of on-the-water monitoring. Electronic monitoring, which includes the use of onboard video cameras, GPS and sensors to monitor and verify fishing activities, and human observers can bolster transparency and provide critical data necessary for sustainably managing tuna and other ocean wildlife.

“In many tuna fisheries around the world, independent monitoring of fishing activity is not adequate, making us blind to many known conservation and compliance problems, such as illegal fishing, misreported or unreported catch, and bycatch of endangered, threatened and protected species,” said Daniel Suddaby, executive director of the Haarlem, Netherlands-based Global Tuna Alliance. “What we can’t see creates risk to fish stocks, fisheries and companies that purchase tuna. Global Tuna Alliance Partners believe that 100% observer coverage, through human and/or electronic monitoring, provides the means to mitigate the conservation and compliance issues that put tuna stocks, ocean ecosystems, and tuna supply chains at risk. We applaud the initial signatories of the Tuna Transparency Pledge for their efforts to address unsustainable and illegal fishing practices within their supply chains and jurisdictions.” 

To meet the 2027 target of 100% on-the-water monitoring on industrial tuna fishing vessels within supply chains or management jurisdictions, signatories of the Tuna Transparency Pledge will do the following:

  1. Implement systems to track and verify progress against the Tuna Transparency Pledge. Where applicable, this includes requesting that vessels register for the Vessels in Other Sustainability Initiatives (VOSI) list, hosted by the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation, or an equivalent tracking and verification tool.
  2. Develop a credible plan to meet the 2027 target.
  3. Monitor pledge progress through an annual verification process.

To help signatories develop ambitious timebound implementation roadmaps, TNC has provided a list of tools to identify, verify and track fishing vessels implementing best practices, including the VOSI list and the ProActive Vessel Register.

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The Tuna Transparency Pledge was developed by TNC in consultancy with other NGOs, retailers and seafood experts. TNC will work with signatories and their NGO partners to track progress and offer support on their rollout and verification procedures. The organization is seeking sign-ons from other retailers, seafood supply chain organizations, and governments to help achieve industry-wide transformation.

“At Walmart, our customers and members count on us to deliver products that are more sustainably sourced, including key seafood commodities that provide protein, nutrition and income for hundreds of millions of people around the world,” noted Mikel Hancock, senior director, sustainability at Walmart. “Improving transparency in supply chains is one way to deliver on that — and why in 2023, Walmart and Sam’s Club U.S. asked our tuna suppliers to source exclusively from vessels that have 100% observer monitoring (electronic monitoring or human observer) by 2027, and from fisheries using zero high-seas transshipment unless the transshipment activity is covered by 100% observer monitoring (electronic monitoring or human coverage) by 2027. We applaud The Nature Conservancy, and the other signatories and hope others will consider joining this work.”

“Albertsons Cos. is committed to providing our customers with high-quality and traceable seafood from environmentally and socially responsible sources,” said Anthony Snow, seafood director at Albertsons. “We are proud to partner with The Nature Conservancy and join the Tuna Transparency Pledge. Together, we can improve the transparency of the tuna supply chain while helping to protect the oceans and treating the people who depend on them for their livelihoods fairly and equitably.”  

Each week, approximately 230 million customers and members visit Walmart’s more than 10,500 stores and numerous e-commerce websites under 46 banners in 24 countries. The Bentonville, Ark.-based company employs approximately 2.3 million associates worldwide. Walmart U.S. is No. 1 on Progressive Grocer’s 2023 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America, while its Sam’s Club division is No. 8. Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons operates more than 2,200 retail food and drug stores with 1,726 pharmacies, 401 associated fuel centers, 22 dedicated distribution centers and 19 manufacturing facilities. It has stores across 34 states and the District of Columbia under 24 banners, among them Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, Jewel-Osco, Shaw's, Acme, Tom Thumb, Randalls, United Supermarkets, Pavilions, Star Market, Haggen, Carrs, Kings Food Markets and Balducci's Food Lovers Market. Albertsons is No. 9 on The PG 100. PG also named Walmart and Albertsons among its Retailers of the Century

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