This latest Fishing for the Future milestone is particularly ground-breaking as versatile canned tuna is very much a household staple in many South African homes.


The retailer’s Fishing for the Future initiative is an on-going drive to meet various sustainability goals for the wild-caught and farmed seafood it sells.  Canned tuna has been a particular challenge as only 16% of the entire world’s tuna catch has met the certification requirements of the MSC.  All Woolworths’ branded canned tuna products are now prepared with MSC certified tuna caught in the Indian Ocean territory of the Maldives by local community fishers using only the traditional pole-and-line technique.


Currently there is no commercially available skipjack tuna in South African waters and there are not sufficient amounts of other tuna species for commercial canning.  Consequently, there is no local tuna canning facility to source from.


Michael Marriott, MSC’s South Africa Manager says, “We congratulate Woolworths on the launch of South Africa’s first certified sustainable canned tuna.  We are well-aware that their journey to achieve this milestone has entailed considerable determination, effort and engagement with the various tuna industry stakeholders and regional fishery organisations.”


The MSC is a global non-profit body which works to address unsustainable fishing and helps to safeguard seafood stocks for future generations.  MSC certification is an assurance of sustainable and transparent fishing practices, and ensures traceability from fishing boat to store.


Pole-and-line, also known as ‘one-by-one’, is a highly selective and traditional way to catch tuna.  A particular hook size is used to ensure that the undersized immature fish, which haven’t yet had a chance to breed, can’t be caught.  This catch method also virtually eliminates the by-catch of other species, such as sharks, sea turtles and dolphins.


“Woolworths is taking its customers on an important stage of its Fishing for the Future journey,” comments Martin Purves, Managing Director of the International Pole & Line Foundation (IPNLF). “Supporting small, one-by-one fisheries is the sustainable way to secure high quality, responsible and ethically caught tuna. It is fantastic to see one of South Africa’s leading retailers making such a huge commitment to this sustainable tuna fishing practise.”


Through this Maldivian source of tuna, the Woolworths customer will be supporting an important fishing community which act as custodians of the ocean environment that their livelihood depends on.


“We are delighted to be able to offer our customers MSC certified canned tuna, says Spencer Sonn, Woolworths Managing Director of Foods. “We are all concerned about the impact of fishing on the oceans and want the power to make better choices.  The MSC certification is our assurance to our customer that the canned tuna their family enjoys is sourced from a fishery with healthy stocks and caught using environmentally-friendly methods that don’t impact adversely on other marine species or the ocean environment.”


To see exactly how the Woolworths MSC canned tuna is caught in the Maldives view:


To celebrate Woolworths’ MSC certified canned tuna milestone customers have the opportunity to win an 8 day / 7 night luxury holiday for two in the Maldives to the value of

R 150 000.  The lucky winner and their partner will be treated to an idyllic stay at The Residence, a secluded retreat on Falhumaafushi, a pristine island in the Gaafu Alifu Atoll.  The prize includes economy class international and internal flights, airport transfers, seven night’s accommodation, breakfast and dinner daily, and a complimentary Maldivian cookery class.  To enter, purchase any Woolworths branded MSC certified pole and line caught canned tuna, swipe your MySchool or Woolworths card at the till point, then sms ‘tuna’ and your card number to 43858.  Competition closes 28 May 2017. T’s and C’s apply.


Editor’s notes:

Woolworths branded canned Tuna range available in a 170 g can:

  • Light meat Tuna shredded in brine
  • Light meat Tuna shredded with vegetable oil added
  • Light meat Tuna chunks in brine
  • Light meat Tuna chunks with vegetable oil added
  • Light meat Tuna solid in brine
  • Light meat Tuna solid with vegetable oil added





1. What is Woolworths’ ‘Fishing for the Future’ initiative?

Nine years ago, we introduced our sustainable seafood policy which became our ‘Fishing for the Future’ initiative.  We have reached significant milestones since becoming South Africa’s first retailer to sign the WWF-SASSI Retail Charter in 2008.  Passion for the environment and deep concern about the impact of overfishing has driven us to set and work towards challenging goals.  The aim is to provide our customer with the assurance that all our wild-caught & farmed seafood is responsibly sourced and traceable.


2. What is Woolworths commitment to sustainable fishing & why is it important?

We are committed to only source wild & farmed seafood species from credible sources or fisheries who are either Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)/Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certified, SASSI green listed or in a credible, time bound improvement project. We met our commitments relating to wild-caught species in 2016, and are now working towards meeting this commitment for farmed seafood by 2020.


3. What makes the Woolworths branded tuna sustainable?

The Woolworths branded canned tuna is Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified and caught using the ‘pole & line’ fishing technique. must first adhere to three core principles. These include:

  • Sustainable fish stocks
  • Impact in the eco-system reduced to a minimum
  • The fishery is well managed

Also, seafood that has an MSC label is fully traceable back to the certified fishery where it was caught.


4. What is ‘Pole & Line’ tuna fishing & what are its benefits?

Pole & line’ tuna fishing is a centuries-old method that involves one fisher using one pole, line and hook to catch one fish at a time – something that requires great strength and dexterity by the fisher. Today, this traditional technique is regarded as the most environmentally responsible way to catch tuna because it is very selective (meaning virtually no non-tuna species like sharks, turtles and dolphins are caught) and low intensity. Pole-and-line fisheries are also socially responsible as they create more jobs compared to other tuna fishing methods and support the economic viability of local coastal communities.


5. What species of tuna is used in Woolworths branded canned tuna & why?

The skipjack tuna species is used in the Woolworths branded canned tuna as it is the ideal tuna species for canning from a quality perspective. It is also a species that is fast growing and abundant in stocks that are not currently under threat.


6. What is Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification?

The Marine Stewardship Council is an international non-profit organisation established to address the problem of unsustainable fishing and safeguard seafood supplies for the future.  They do this by setting credible standards for sustainable fishing and supply chain traceability. The MSC meets the highest benchmarks for credible certification and eco-labelling programs.


7. How long is MSC certification valid for?

MSC certification is valid for five years with annual surveillance audits that are accessible to the public to review.


8. Why are we sourcing this tuna from the Maldives?

Pole-and-line fishing is a centuries-old practice in the Maldives and the fishery is often heralded as a good example of highly selective and low impact fishing. The regional management of tuna in the Indian Ocean falls under the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC). The Maldives has been an active participant in the IOTC’s scientific working parties and became a full member in July 2011. At the end of 2012, Maldives was the first country in the Indian Ocean region to be awarded MSC certification for its pole-and-line tuna fishery. Since then it has been a sustainability leader in the region and was a strong advocate for the IOTC’s adoption of a harvest control rule (a forward-thinking management plan to avoid the overfishing of a species) for skipjack tuna in 2016.


9. Can we not source sustainable tuna for canning locally?

Currently there is no commercially available skipjack tuna in South African waters and there are not sufficient amounts of other tuna species for commercial canning.  Consequently, there is no local tuna canning facility to source from.


10. How do I know whether a product is MSC certified?

The blue MSC label at seafood counters or on product packaging confirms to the customer that the seafood they have chosen has been caught by fisheries which care for the environment and there is full traceability from fishing boat to store.


11. Why is sustainable fishing important?

Sustainable fishing is important to safeguard our precious seafood supplies for the future. We all want the world’s oceans to be teeming with life – today, tomorrow and for generations to come.


12. Is the Woolworths canned tuna dolphin-friendly?

Yes, the ‘pole & line’ catch method ensures that there is no by-catch or harm to any other marine life.


13. Why should I buy MSC certified seafood?

Buying MSC certified seafood means that you are supporting sustainable fishing in that the seafood has been caught by fisheries which care for the environment ensuring that there will be seafood in our oceans today, tomorrow and for generations thereafter.


14. Is all Woollies branded canned tuna MSC certified?

Yes, the entire range of Woolworths branded canned tuna is MSC certified.


15. Where can I find more information?

Woolworths website:

International Pole & Line Foundation website:

Marine Stewardship Council website:

International Seafood Sustainability