A meeting on tuna harvest strategies in Vietnam this week could have major ramifications on the global tuna market as leading retailers call for more action to avoid overfishing in the Pacific region.

Hundreds of key fishery officials are attending the annual meeting of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) in Vietnam’s Da Nang region between Nov 27. and Dec. 3.

During the week, WCPFC will review 2022 activities and decide on future rules and policies to support the management of the tuna fisheries of the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO).

Retailers have called for WCPFC to adopt and implement a management procedure for skipjack in 2022, and to continue to develop management procedures for bigeye and yellowfin, as well as to implement a harvest strategy for South Pacific albacore in 2023.

About half of the world’s tuna production comes from this region, making its value on the global retail market significant, according to Nicholas Guichoux, chief program officer at sustainability certification group Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

For tuna fisheries to continue carrying the MSC label, harvest control rules are key, Guichoux told IntraFish.

Several retailers have committed to sustainable sourcing policies, including MSC-certified fisheries, making the outcome of this week’s meeting very important for their future purchasing.

Without progress on harvest strategies, currently healthy stocks may be at risk in the future, Tesco Marine Group Responsible Sourcing Manager Laura Gale told IntraFish.

"We want to continue to provide our customers with tuna that is responsibly sourced and the responsible management of fish stocks is a key element of our approach," Gale added.

In addition to Tesco, a letter was signed by 118 leading tuna buyers from across the world, including Waitrose, Lidl, Princes Group, Costco and Thai Union to safeguard the health of the region's tuna stocks.

The adoption of skipjack harvest strategies is the first step for the long-term management of the species, Guichoux told IntraFish.

"Hopefully, all WCPFC parties will agree to the proposed harvest control rule for skipjack and the proposed workplan for harvest strategies," he said.