Walmart, Sam’s Club Aim to Eliminate Threats to Tuna Supply Chain

New policy ensures seafood products have been harvested ethically, legally and sustainably
Marian Zboraj
Digital Editor
Marian Zboraj
walmart tuna
Walmart and Sam's Club have unveiled an enhanced seafood policy that aims to help raise standards in the tuna supply chain.

Walmart and Sam’s Club are aiming to create systemic change in the tuna supply chain. The two retailers are implementing stronger standards to improve transparency and data gathering and address issues such as accidental catch of nontargeted species, illegal fishing and abandonment of fishing gear, all of which continue to pose a threat to ocean ecosystems. The enhanced seafood policy covers Walmart U.S., Walmart Canada and Sam’s Club suppliers and asks tuna suppliers to:

  1. Source exclusively from vessels that have 100% observer monitoring (electronic monitoring or human observer) by 2027; 
  2. Source from fisheries using zero high-seas transshipment unless the transshipment activity is covered by 100% observer monitoring (electronic monitoring or human coverage) by 2027. 

[Read more: "Aquaculture Stewardship Council Hits the Road to Promote Certified Seafood"]

In a company post by Melody Richard, SVP, pantry, Walmart U.S.; Alain Nzigamasabo, SVP, GMM grocery and beverages, Sams Club; and Sam Wankowski, chief merchandising officer, Walmart Canada, the executives wrote, “Our updated seafood policy can help lay the foundation for a more resilient and transparent tuna supply chain that allows people and the planet to thrive.”

They outlined why the companies are prioritizing the two aforementioned issues, as follows. 

  • Observer Monitoring (Electronic Monitoring or Human Coverage). Observer programs are important tools for fisheries management, as they provide monitoring of commercial fishing activities and report key information on several key data points, including bycatch. Observer programs can be managed by people or through electronic monitoring devices (including new AI technology). To improve transparency and promote better fishing practices, these programs leverage data and coverage of fishing activities.
  • Zero High-Seas Transshipment Without Observer Monitoring. Transshipment refers to the transfer of any of fish or fish products from one fishing vessel to another vessel at sea or in port. According to the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation, at-sea transshipment can prevent the collection of accurate data about seafood products and lead to illegal, unreported or unregulated fishing activities, threatening workers, consumers and the environment. While transshipment in any maritime zone creates risks, the executives point out that the risk of undesirable activity is typically greatest on the high seas. Comparatively, in-port transshipment with 100% observer monitoring promotes greater transparency and may even provide a range of socio-economic benefits, including local employment and lower costs of goods.

Eliminating high-seas transshipment unless the transshipment activity is covered by 100% observer monitoring (electronic monitoring or human coverage) will increase transparency and promote best practices on tuna fishing vessels, helping to protect the oceans, better preserve biodiversity and support quality working conditions for people on fishing vessels.

Jack Kittinger, VP for global fisheries and aquaculture with Arlington, Va.-based Conservation International, called transshipment at sea “one of the leading contributors to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and can enable severe human rights and labor violations.”

Kittinger added: “We are encouraged to see Walmart taking a leadership role in this space and look forward to supporting both Walmart and their suppliers in making these commitments a reality. We hope such efforts will inspire other businesses to adopt similar measures that help contribute to global conservation priorities and adherence to international standards for human rights.”

Along with our goal for all Walmart and Sam’s Club shelf-stable private and national-brand tuna to come from a Fishery Improvement Project or Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)-certified source by 2025, these enhanced requirements will help build transparency, encourage best practices and drive continuous improvement by helping address systemic issues in the tuna supply chain,” wrote Richard, Nzigamasabo and Wankowski.

The tuna supply chain isnt the only supply chain that Walmart is looking to improve. The retailer recently released plans for its first owned and operated case-ready beef facility, opening in 2025, to offer greater transparency into the Angus beef supply chain.

Sam’s Club, a division of Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart Inc., operates nearly 600 clubs in the United States and Puerto Rico. Walmart operates more than 10,500 stores and numerous e-commerce websites in 20 countries. Walmart U.S. is No. 1 on Progressive Grocer’s 2023 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. PG also named it one of its Retailers of the Century.

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