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Breakthrough commitment from Asda welcomed by WDC

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Three leading marine conservation charities, including WDC, today welcomed a breakthrough commitment by supermarket giant Asda to protecting endangered, threatened and protected (ETP) marine species such as sharks, turtles, seabirds and dolphins from being accidentally killed in the fisheries that supply Asda with fish and shellfish.

Working in partnership with Birdlife International and the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, WDC has been in discussion with Asda to see how the number of deaths of these vulnerable species caused through ‘bycatch’ (the accidental capture of sensitive species in fishing gear) can be reduced. In particular, Asda has now committed to addressing the problems of bycatch in tuna fisheries and avoiding the sale of fish and shellfish caught in gillnets where possible.

The Asda commitments come in response to a review of the impact of Asda sourcing on ETP marine species published in September 2020 – available here. The review showed that some of the fisheries that supplied fish and shellfish to Asda represented a potential risk to vulnerable marine wildlife. The Asda commitments can be seen on the Asda website here.

Asda’s commitments include:

  • Adopting a procurement policy for all fish and shellfish products that requires that best practices are implemented to reduce harm to ETP species and particularly the use of best practices in the mitigation of bycatch. The specification will also require appropriate observer coverage (whether electronic or in-person) be introduced over a meaningful timescale.
  • Adopting a presumption against sourcing fish products caught with gill nets except under very limited circumstances. This measure is because of the very high risk to whales, dolphins and other ETP species from gill nets.
  • Support technological innovation in reducing accidental harm to ETP marine species
  • For tuna, adopting strict requirements around catching technology, best practices in mitigation, observer coverage on boats and the treatment of sharks. Asda is supporting ambitious requirements that 20% of all kinds of tuna fishing activity should be fully observed within five years and 100% in the long term

The Asda commitments are the start of a global initiative to mobilise supermarkets and food brands to require that the fish and shellfish they sell only comes from fisheries that use best practices in protecting vulnerable marine wildlife. The initiative will be extended within the UK and abroad during 2021.

Sarah Dolman, policy manager at Whale and Dolphin Conservation, said: “Dolphin, porpoise and whale bycatch is a welfare and conservation problem in many fisheries globally. We are delighted to work with Asda to improve source fisheries, so that consumers can be confident that the fish and shellfish in their shopping basket are not associated with harm to whales, dolphins and porpoises. We are really looking forward to measurable reductions in the bycatch of protected species and urge other supermarkets to follow suit.”

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