Walmart and Sam’s Club on Wednesday announced an updated seafood policy that calls for more-stringent standards and transparency in the retailers’ tuna supply chain.
The new rules around tuna sourcing aim to address issues such as accidental catch of non-targeted species, illegal fishing and abandonment of fishing gear, Walmart, the country’s largest food retailer, said.
By 2027, all Walmart tuna suppliers must source exclusively from vessels that have 100% observer monitoring (either electronic or human) and must source from fisheries using zero high seas transshipment (unless that activity is covered by observer monitoring). Transshipment involves transferring fish from one fishing vessel to another, a practice that can hamper accurate data collection or hide illegal or unreported fishing activities.
Walmart has also said that by 2025 all shelf-stable private- and national-brand tuna for its stores and Sam’s Club must come from a Fishery Improvement Project- or Marine Stewardship Council-certified source.
Illegal and destructive fishing have led to more than one-third of the world’s fisheries to be operating at unsustainable levels, Walmart said, citing data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
“Our new sourcing requirements build on purposeful collaborations and a commitment to systemic change,” Walmart and Sam’s Club executives said in a company blog post. “Together, 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.”
Observer monitoring was selected because it’s an important tool for gathering data around fishing activities, to boost transparency, Walmart said.
Eliminating most cases of transshipment also promotes transparency and can help preserve biodiversity, the retailer added.
Transshipment is “one of the leading contributors to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and can enable severe human rights and labor violations,” Jack Kittinger, VP for global fisheries and aquaculture with Conservation International, said in Walmart’s statement.
“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,” Kittinger said. “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.”
Walmart is also looking to assert greater control over its beef supply chain, an initiative that began in 2019. The retailer announced plans this week to build a $257 million beef packaging and distribution facility in Olathe, Kansas, to open in 2025.
The facility will distribute a selection of Angus cuts from Sustainable Beef LLC, the premium beef company that Walmart acquired a stake in last year.
“As clean labels, traceability and transparency become more and more important to customers, we’ve made plans to enter into the beef industry creating an unmatched system that allows us to deliver consistent quality and value,” Scott Neal, then-Walmart’s SVP of meat, said in 2019.