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Safeway, a recognized leader in embracing sustainable seafood practices, builds on its leadership by announcing that its Safeway brand skipjack (chunk-light) canned tuna will be responsibly caught using free-school purse-seine methods. The company will transition to the purse-seine method by the end of the year.
Free-school tuna is caught by purse-seiners using traditional methods of spotting schools of fish using radar and sonar, while captains employ powerful binoculars to spot birds attracted by schools of tuna. Joe Ennen, Senior Vice President of Consumer Brands, said the new sourcing policy is an important step in addressing the consumer demand for a more sustainably sourced product without compromising quality.
“We are committed to building a brand portfolio that is innovative and gives consumers what they want. We have always felt that the Safeway brand is the best tasting canned tuna product. Now we’re excited to offer that same superior quality from a source that is more sustainable and eco-friendly,” Ennen said.
Safeway is implementing these new specifications at a time when the tuna fishing industry is finding better ways to address the significant negative ecosystem impacts associated with purse-seine netted tuna fishing, a method that employs fish aggregating devices (FADs).
Safeway’s move to eliminate FAD-caught tuna is part of the effort to make its branded tuna across the shelf stable category more responsibly sourced and to also enhance the company’s “Dolphin Safe” tuna commitments made years ago to Earth Island Institute. Safeway is in the process of instituting additional specifications for responsibly sourced albacore tuna caught on longline vessels with improved fishing techniques. Safeway brand “responsibly caught” tuna is the first brand in North America to make this important move.
Greenpeace has greeted Safeway’s announcement with significant excitement. According to Casson Trenor, Senior Markets Campaigner, “Safeway has just galvanized its hold on pole position within the U.S. retail industry in regard to sustainable seafood. Safeway’s canned skipjack tuna specifications are progressive, comprehensive, and visionary.
They address the dangers of fish-aggregating devices. Greenpeace applauds Safeway for stepping up to the plate and making this powerful and public commitment and looks forward to the company’s forthcoming albacore tuna policy.”
“Sourcing responsibly fished tuna is vital to marine ecosystem health. said Phil Gibson, Safeway’s Group Director of Seafood. “We are pleased to include the canned tuna category in our company’s Comprehensive Sustainable Seafood Policy.”
The specifications will be implemented over the coming year. By establishing this detailed sourcing plan, Safeway will be working with capable suppliers and verification partners who can provide responsibly caught tuna with full supply chain transparency.
“Safeway’s new specifications for canned tuna perfectly complement the work we are already doing together on fresh and frozen seafood. Engaging with existing suppliers to drive improvements over time is emphasized,” noted Matt Owens, Operations Director at FishWise, a California-based NGO specializing in seafood sustainability.
Safeway’s sourcing decision is driven by concerns about over-harvesting of fish and the significant mortality rate of non-target (bycatch) species – such as sea turtles, sharks, and pelagic fish – associated with skipjack fishing using FADs. Fishing tuna without FADs can significantly reduce bycatch levels.
However, verifying that a tuna source is not using FADs requires new protocols and building partnerships with stakeholders in ocean ecology. In the future, Safeway will conduct in-depth research towards bringing to market economically viable, bio-regionally supported pole & line sourced tuna fish.
Safeway has now made clear its intention to work with the fishing industry, governments, Regional Fisheries Management Organizations, NGOs, and scientists to improve the management, sustainability and fairness of the fisheries that Safeway continues to source from.
Safeway is an industry leader in environmental sustainability, ethical business practices and effective community outreach. Safeway upholds an operating philosophy that is rooted in corporate social responsibility focused on four key fundamentals: People, Products, Community, and the Planet.
These fundamentals are “The Heart of Safeway,” bringing together our passion for food and serving our customers with the rapidly developing needs of our communities and our planet.