Bumble Bee Foods, FCF Fishery Company, Clover Leaf Seafoods and Ocean Outcomes said Thursday they are partnering to launch a new longline tuna fishery improvement project (FIP) focused on the fishing practices of approximately 200 Chinese and Chinese Taipei longline albacore and yellowfin tuna fishing vessels in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.

A primary focus of the FIP is to improve data collection by increasing electronic observer coverage of vessels over time, with a long-term goal of 100 percent coverage. Expanding observer coverage will help drive the fisheries towards the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard, Ocean Outcomes said.

Collectively, the vessels involved in the FIP catch 15,000 metric tons of albacore and yellowfin tuna annually, much of which is canned and exported to North American markets by Bumble Bee. The albacore and yellowfin tuna stocks are considered healthy.

Fishery observers currently gather first-hand data on what's caught and thrown back, as well as interactions with endangered, threatened and protected species. Observers also support compliance with fishing and safety regulations. However, observer coverage is currently occurring in a small subset of longliners. By expanding coverage electronically to participating FIP vessels, Bumble Bee and FIP participants will support effective fisheries management practices through better data collection.

“Longline albacore and yellowfin landed in Fiji are a vital part of Bumble Bee’s supply chain,” says Mike Kraft, vice president of Global Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility, Bumble Bee Foods.

“The FIP team has developed a strong workplan, identifying actions that will move the fishery towards the MSC fisheries standard. We are very excited about this project and we look forward to the challenging work ahead of us.”

Within five years, the FIP will work with the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, which oversees the management of tuna regionally, to develop and implement robust and precautionary harvest strategies which are responsive to statuses of target stocks, including best practice harvest control rules to reduce exploitation rate as needed.

This FIP is one of two projects between Bumble Bee, FCF and O2 focused on ensuring sustainable Chinese and Chinese Taipei longline fisheries; the other is in development for longline vessels in the Indian Ocean. The goal of both FIPs is to achieve a certifiable status by mid-2024.