Three leading marine conservation charities today welcomed a breakthrough commitment by supermarket giant Asda to protect 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 seafood.

Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, BirdLife International and Whale and Dolphin Conservation have been working with Asda to reduce the number of deaths of these vulnerable species caused through “bycatch” (the incidental capture of animals in fishing). In particular, Asda has committed to address the problems of bycatch in tuna fisheries and avoid the sale of seafood caught in gillnets where possible.

The Asda commitments come in response to a review of the impact of Asda seafood sourcing on ETP marine species published in September 2020 – available here. The review showed that some of the fisheries that supply seafood 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 seafood products that requires that best practices are implemented to reduce harm to ETP species, and particularly mitigate bycatch. The specification will also require appropriate observer coverage (electronic or in-person) to be introduced over a meaningful timescale.
  • Adopting a presumption against sourcing seafood products caught with gillnets except under very limited circumstances. This measure is because of the very high risk to whales, dolphins and other ETP species from gillnets.
  • Supporting technological innovation in reducing accidental harm to ETP marine species.
  • For tuna, adopting strict requirements around catch technology, best practices in mitigation, observer coverage on boats and the treatment of sharks. Asda is supporting ambitious requirements that observer coverage on all types of tuna vessels should be at least 20 percent within five years, with a goal of achieving 100 percent coverage in the long term.

The Asda commitments are the start of a global initiative to mobilise supermarkets and food brands to require that the seafood 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.

Blake Lee-Harwood, chief programs officer at Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, said: “Asda has consistently demonstrated leadership in pioneering sustainable
seafood and protecting the marine environment. We hope that this initiative will be the first of many commitments by retailers and brands worldwide and that we see a step change in how the seafood sector addresses the impacts of fishing on marine wildlife. We look forward to a close collaboration with Asda to tackle these urgent challenges.”

Rory Crawford, bycatch programme manager at Birdlife International, said: “The state of threatened seabird populations – especially albatrosses – tell us that much more needs to be done to tackle the accidental capture of vulnerable species in fisheries. While we’ve seen progress in some fisheries but global efforts need to be substantially ramped up and supermarkets have a vital role to play in driving improvements. Asda’s engagement on bycatch is very welcome, and we hope they continue to push strongly for improvements to protect nature.”

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.”


Contact details:
Blake Lee-Harwood
Chief Programs Officer, Sustainable Fisheries Partnership
+44 (0)7872621071

Rory Crawford
Bycatch Programme Manager, Birdlife International Marine Programme
+44 (0)7739 921 489

Danny Groves
WDC Press Office
+44 (0)7834 498 277