World Oceans Day: why we’ve backed the Responsible Fishing Scheme and the Global Ghost Gear Initiative
It is estimated that around 8 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year and the amount of plastic in the oceans is set to triple in a decade unless litter is curbed.
We take this very seriously. When we launched Plan A back in 2007 we put waste reduction at the heart of our activity and when we updated Plan A 2025 last year we set out further commitments around plastic recycling. We are also working to eradicate single-use plastic from our business and to only use plastic where it has a clear and demonstrable benefit. Of course, there is much to be done on this issue, but we are collaborating with the wider retail industry through WRAP’s Plastic Pact to deliver change.
But, whilst it is an important and high-profile issue facing the world’s seas, plastic is just one of the challenges – rising sea levels, warming oceans, pollution, deoxygenation and irresponsible fishing practices all cause long-term harm. Healthy oceans are essential for healthy human life, so we are committed to ensuring that the seafood that we source comes from responsible fisheries that care for the marine environment.
As part of this work, two years ago, we backed the Responsible Fishing Scheme (RFS), run by Seafish. We became the first retailer to say that all vessels within our UK supply chains must be RFS-certified or be working towards a time-bound plan to achieve certification by 2017. Furthermore, all fishing boats that we source from globally must be certified or working towards a time-bound plan by 2021.
This is an independently-audited scheme that is the first and only global standard on ethical and responsible fishing practices on board fishing vessels. Certification to the scheme demonstrates that a vessel and its skipper is operating to best practice in safety, health and welfare, training, vessel, care of catch and, mostly importantly in this context, care for the environment.
By entering into certification to the scheme, a skipper is agreeing to responsible practice in respecting the environment through the management of litter and lost fishing gear recovery. Fishing gear is valuable, but in certain circumstances can be lost or abandoned, such as in bad weather or through equipment malfunction. This has numerous impacts, including the continued catching of fish species (so-called ‘ghost fishing’), entanglement of marine wildlife, physical impacts with the seabed and its communities, as well as being a hazard to shipping and navigation. Of course, most fishermen do not want to lose their fishing gear, and few intentionally dispose of it in the ocean.
That said, there are a number of ways to reduce gear loss or having to abandon fishing gear in the first place, and to lessen the impact of lost gear once it has gone.
Our support for the Responsible Fishing Scheme means that the vessels and fisheries that we work with are already doing more to help protect the oceans from litter and lost gear. Because we feel that this issue is so important, however, we have recently joined the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI) – a cross-sectoral alliance committed to driving solutions to the problem of lost and abandoned fishing gear (ghost gear) worldwide. The GGGI aims to improve the health of marine ecosystems, protect marine animals, and safeguard human health and livelihoods.
I’m proud to say that we work alongside some of best seafood suppliers in the world, consistently demonstrating leading standards when it comes to ethical and environmental practices. Our market-leading support for responsible fishing and our membership of the Global Ghost Gear Initiative helps us drive forward with protecting our oceans, and our work on plastics across our wider business will help us to reduce our impact on environmental pollution in our oceans.
But we’re not complacent. We’ve made a good start, but we know we must do everything we can to protect the marine environment and those working in our seafood supply chains.