Pick n Pay has become the first South African retailer to commit to transform its entire fresh, frozen and canned seafood operations by the end of 2015.
The national retailer has entered into a three-year partnership agreement, worth R6.1-million (US$761 000), with the World Wide Fund for Nature’s (WWF) Southern African Sustainable Fisheries Programme.
The WWF Sustainable Fisheries Programme is an extension of the organisation’s Responsible Fisheries Programme, which works directly with the fishing industry to address the problem of overfishing. Its sister programme, the Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (Sassi) focuses its attention on retailers, restaurants, chefs and consumers.
The partnership represents a major financial injection for the sustainable fisheries efforts in South Africa. The WWF’s South African chapter (WWF-SA) commended the retailer for its efforts to promote sustainability in the fishing industry and put a spotlight on the exploitation of global seafood resources.
Selling sustainable fish
Bronwen Rohland, director of sustainability and marketing at Pick n Pay, said that by 2015, all seafood sold at Pick n Pay will be certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) for wild-caught products; certified by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council for farmed products; and categorised as “green” in terms of the WWF Sassi list.
Fish species on Sassi’s green list are considered the most sustainable choices. These species can handle current fishing pressure; are farmed in a manner that does not harm the environment; and are procured from fisheries or farms that are engaged in credible, time-bound fisheries improvement projects.
According to a new report by WWF-SA, titled “WWF Fisheries: Facts and Trends South Africa”, there are a number of positive initiatives underway to improve and restore the state of marine resources. These include the MSC’s certification of South Africa’s offshore and inshore hake trawl fishery.
MSC certification is an international eco-label, which gives consumers peace of mind by certifying that fisheries have met the organisation’s standard for a sustainable seafood product.
The WWF-SA report says that eco-labels can play an important role in creating a sustainable seafood industry.
Internationally, large chain stores such as Walmart and Marks & Spencer have committed to selling 100% sustainable seafood in coming years.
In South Africa, more consumers and retailers are making use of the information provided by the WWF Sassi guide to procure more sustainable seafood options.
There has also been an increase in eco-labeled MSC products on the South African market and more consumers are looking for the blue eco-label on their seafood products.
The three-year partnership will extend the reach of Pick n Pay’s sustainable fisheries campaigns and educational programmes. Funding will be allocated to train and educate those involved in the seafood industry in sustainable practices. It will also support programmes that educate the public on conservation of fish resources.
Rohland said that there are two main reasons why Pick n Pay set the ambitious goal of stocking only sustainably-sourced seafood by 2015. “Unfortunately, the situation cannot be improved overnight. There are currently not enough sustainably-sourced seafood products available for us to only stock such products,” she said.
She said that a significant number of the world’s fisheries and aquaculture facilities do not yet comply with internationally accepted standards of sustainability.
For Pick n Pay to reach its goal, it has to work with suppliers and fisheries to address sustainability challenges. “This will ultimately drive more change on the water than simply discontinuing sourcing from these fisheries,” she said.
Fisheries are important
The WWF-SA report says that fisheries play a critical role in providing direct and indirect livelihoods for over 140 000 people in South Africa. Fish is also an important protein source for traditional fishing communities along the South African coastline, many of which are considered food insecure.
The report suggests that the successful roll-out and implementation of a new small-scale fisheries policy will be critical in ensuring the livelihoods and food security of many of these fishing dependent communities. In the Eastern Cape, R500-million ($62-million) in foreign revenue is generated in squid fishing every year. According to the report, this makes it one of the country’s most valuable fisheries.
South Africa’s commercial fishing industry employs 43 458 people, which includes seasonal and permanent employees.
Pick n Pay is noticing changing trends in consumer seafood buying behaviour. “Customers have become aware of purchasing seafood which is sourced sustainably, and are making more informed decisions when purchasing fish products,” she said.
Dr Morné du Plessis, CEO of WWF-SA, said that the role of responsible consumers and retailers is critical. As retailers and consumers demand greener choices, more momentum is created to bring about change in the global fishing industry.