Why Bumble Bee believes certification is important for the future of sustainable seafood
As anyone working on sustainable supply chains knows, getting transparency and/or certification of final parts can often be the most difficult. Bumble Bee’s objectives will require ensuring best practices in catch reporting and data verification, and working with and training consultants and vessel operators.
In its latest sustainability report, The Bumble Bee Seafood Company announced a notable increase, in just one year, of the fish it sources from third-party verified sustainable sources.
“The numbers tend to speak for themselves – the change of around 30% indicates that there is a significant year-on-year difference in what our customers and consumers may consider to be a sustainable supply of Bumble Bee products”,
Ray ClarkeBumble Bee’s vice president of fisheries management and government affairs, said Sustainable Brands™. “More and more of our products are made in a way that an independent assessor considers sustainable.”
Last year, 42% of the company’s seafood products were externally recognized as sustainable or in the process of being certified; this year, it’s 71 percent. Of course, this growth is not accidental, but due to the company’s top-down commitment to change. In 2020, Bumble Bee launched its Future of Seafood platform, which includes general objectives of protecting and caring for the ocean and those who depend on it. With a set of clear and achievable goals around three pillars – fish, oceans and people – this has led the company to expand its efforts around maintaining fish stocks, eliminating plastic waste, ocean regeneration, work practices and community programs.
“Protecting our oceans is the right thing to do for the planet, the billions of people who depend on seafood for their livelihoods and for the long-term success of our business,” Clarke says.
So how did Bumble Bee accomplish this, especially in what is recognized as a complex supply chain? Through partnerships and the use of data and technology. More recently, the company has explored electronic monitoring to collect fishing data to augment human observers of the fishery. The company has also reduced catches in some areas, such as the Bay of Fundy in Canada and the Indian Ocean — where stock assessments indicated a decline in the abundance of herring and yellowfin tuna, respectively. It’s often slow work — which, Clarke notes, requires building relationships and pushing for incremental change.
“We’ve learned that what may seem like a simple request, like keeping track of what ships catch in their nets and lines, can be a little more complicated than it seems,” says Clarke.
A key partner is the Marine Stewardship Council (MSc) — an international non-profit organization that, among other things, operates a sustainable seafood certification system.
“When great brands like Bumble Bee make strong sustainability commitments and partner with MSC, they are able to bring about greater change on the water,”
Angelina Skowronsky, commercial director for the western United States at MSC, told Sustainable Brands. “As a large company with chain-of-custody certification and consumer messaging, Bumble Bee’s efforts mean to both fishing communities and consumers that sustainable fishing and protecting the health of the oceans matter. “
Beyond certifying Bumble Bee with its blue-branded MSC label, MSC is helping fisheries make the transition to Fisheries improvement projects
(FIP). Although they differ depending on the species and the fishery; essentially, it helps build a mechanism to demonstrate progress, build capacity, and achieve full certification over time.
It is not easy for a company to open its supply chain to the scrutiny of independent outside organizations. In fact, it’s something that, sadly, too many brands never do. But for Clarke, working with bands like MSC, the World Institute for Sustainable Seafood and the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation has been essential to their success thus far.
“Having an independent voice to evaluate our fishing practices allows for a robust process of incremental improvements,” Clarke says. “Continuous and incremental improvement tends to be the pace of change in these fisheries, as opposed to big leaps or changes in vessel operational practices.”
Which brings up an important point: the big jump from 2021 to 2022 is not just due to actions taken over the past year, but due to the impacts of efforts dating back to 2013, when Bumble Bee began working with MSC. .
Bumble Bee still has a long way to go to reach its ultimate goal – to have 100% of its seafood externally recognized as sustainable by 2025. That’s only three years away – so there’s still a lot of work to do. to do. As anyone working on sustainable supply chains knows, getting transparency and/or certification on the latest parts can often be the hardest part. For Bumble Bee, that means focusing on specialty produce species, like clams, mussels and mackerel; which lag behind tuna, wild salmon and surimi in certified and sustainable sourcing.
Clarke noted that achieving Bumble Bee’s ultimate goal will require increased efforts to ensure best practices in catch reporting and data verification, which means working with and training consultants and vessel operators: “Nevertheless, we are seeing progress in our efforts to bring all of these players to meet FIP and MSC certification standards.
For the MSC, the hope is that Bumble Bee’s efforts will spur action and innovation in the seafood industry, which must continue to work with policymakers, scientists and other stakeholders to ensure that the world’s fisheries are managed sustainably. Currently, only 35% of global fish stocks are operating at unsustainable levels, a problem that is worsening due to climate change.
“Sustainability is an ongoing commitment and affects every part of the supply chain,” says Skowronski. “The goal is for every company in the seafood industry to think about their sourcing and incorporate sustainability into their business decisions.”