The 2019 European Tuna Conference (ETC) is off to a great start – the opening session speeches highlighted some of the major topics concerning the tuna industry: illegal fishing, sustainability, and tuna stocks assessment.

Stefaan Depypere, ETC Conference Chair, Independent Consultant of SDP-Consult c.v., stated that illegal (IUU) fishing is a huge global problem and makes up 15% of the global seafood industry. He said that the tuna industry “needs to say firm and vigilant against illegal fishing” and countries need to work together to accomplish this goal. Also, he affirmed that the EU has taken measures to protect the industry from illegal fishing. 

Touching on the topic of sustainability, he said that “tuna is a big business and that is why it is so important that the whole [supply] chain should be accountable and transparent; from net to the catch.”

What would the industry be without the source itself?

Scientist at the Institut De Recherches Pour Le Development, Dr. Alain Fonteneau, took a comprehensive look into tuna catches and stock assessments spanning decades, especially on tropical species in the equatorial regions. 

He added that although most tuna stocks are fully exploited, most of the stocks (85% of world tuna catches) are estimated at being in good health. Dr. Fonteneau also highlighted that RFMOs are facing increasing pressure to be more efficient in controlling tuna fisheries but work remains difficult because of scientific and political reasons. 

The state of the European tuna market was another interesting topic that was touched on by another speaker, Pierre Commère, Delegate General, Fish Processing Industry in Adepale, France. The EU market is essential when it comes to canned tuna product as it is the second largest producer worldwide when it comes to this product type. 

Tuna expert and author of the book, Tuna Wars, Steven Adolf, gave the last talk of the opening session at the ETC. So, how well do we know our tuna? Adolf traced back into the history of tuna and how the most consumed fish in the world has been traded and been part of the world global economy since ancient times. The tuna expert also highlighted the importance of sustainability and how it has become “a weapon” in marketing. For example, how the dolphin-safe mark is more a marketing tool than a real sustainable certification. 

The ETC continues today, May 6, 2019, until 18:30 CET.