The world’s marine resources are being depleted and according to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the stock of only 7% of marine resources of the world was stable, while the stock of 60% had been fully exploited and the stock of 33% had been overexploited. We believe that the status of marine resources is extremely important in terms of medium- to long-term business risks and opportunities for the Nissui Group, which is engaged in businesses that utilize the bounty of the sea.
For this reason, we conduct a survey on the status of marine resources procured by the Nissui Group as a whole, for the purpose of getting a grasp of the resource status of its procured fish and identifying the issues to be addressed. In addition, we promote initiatives aimed at the sustainable use of marine resources on a Group-wide scale.
Nissui has conducted a resources survey based on the results of the volume of wild fish procured by Nissui and its Group companies (20 in and 20 outside Japan) in 2019. The total volume of wild-caught fish handled by the Nissui Group totaled approximately 2.71 million tons (live weight equivalent), which corresponds roughly to about 2.7% of the world’s total wild catch.
Since the previous survey undertaken in 2017, we have expanded and refined our survey methodology to include fish species, catch areas, country of origin, weight (in terms of live equivalent), as well as fishing methods and equipment used. We also added fish oil and compound feed ingredients, which were not included in the first survey, to the scope of this latest survey. Analysis of the survey data was outsourced to the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) (Note) to ensure that the results were independently verified.
(Note) Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP): US-registered NGO that promotes the sustainable production of seafood throughout the supply chain.
(Note 1) FAO: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
(Note 2) FishSource: An international resource assessment database established by the SFP in 2007. The database was developed based on information on fishery resources from administrative agencies in various countries.
(Note 3) ODP: Online reporting platform for voluntary disclosure of seafood sourcing established by the SFP in 2015.
The survey found that the Nissui Group's procurement regions and volumes are as shown in the figure above, with Japan being the largest, at approximately 810,000 tons, followed by South America and North America.
The largest volume in terms of fish species handled was comprised of herring and sardines, which are used as raw materials for fishmeal and fish oil, followed by white fish such as cod and hake, and pelagic fish such as mackerel, horse mackerel and yellowtail. The top two categories accounted for approximately 68% of the total.
Survey results were sent to an external, third-party organization (Sustainable Fisheries Partnership) to assess the state of resources. FishSource, an international resource assessment database managed by the same organization (see note below), assigns a score out of 10 for each of the following five score categories, which include the state of the resource and the fishery management system, and based on these scores, the state of resource management was evaluated on a four-stage scale according to the method specified by the Ocean Disclosure Project (ODP).
(Note) FishSource: An international resource assessment database developed based on fishery resource information from administrative agencies in various countries.
Score 1: Management Strategy
Score 2: Managers' Compliance
Score 3: Fishers' Compliance
Score 4: Current Health
Score 5: Future Health
The SFP analysis showed that about 71% of the procured items were in a state of being “well managed” or “managed”. Conversely, 8% of resources were shown to be in need of improvement, and 21% could not be scored and therefore not assessed.
In addition, procurement derived from third-party programs that promote the sustainable use of seafood, such as eco-labels, accounted for about 51% of the total catch. Of the approximately 770,000 tons of MSC-certified products, Alaska Pollock accounted for more than 90%, or 720,000 tons.
The Nissui Group considers the two following categories of procured marine products to be particular challenges and is discussing future initiatives with a priority on species with a large handling volume.
(1) Endangered Species
As a result of the survey, we found out that some of the marine products we handle contain fish species that fall under the category of Critically Endangered Species I (CR and EN in the IUCN Red List) as defined by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).
For this survey, we also looked at endangered species II (VU), and found that the top species included golden threadfin bream, Atlantic cod, and haddock. A portion of the Atlantic cod and haddock catch is MSC certified, and currently more than 60% of the fish species included in the survey are certified. For these fish species, we will make efforts to progressively switch to certified products, and for those that are difficult to switch to, we will consider involvement in the FIP (see note) and promote initiatives to ensure sustainability.
For fish species that are included in the IUCN Red List, in addition to verifying whether or not they are certified, we will consider how to deal with them on a case-by-case basis while keeping a close eye on resource health and fishing regulations.
(Note) FIP: Fishery improvement project, in which fishermen, companies, distributors, NGOs, and other stakeholders work together to improve the sustainability of fisheries.
(2) Species not scored
Many of the fish species used as ingredients in formula feeds have been identified as being in this category. We will strive to enhance traceability in cooperation with external parties, including participation in supplier roundtable discussions. With regard to other unidentified fish species, we will closely monitor the status of resources and the IUU (illegal, unreported and unregulated) fishing practices of each fishing country, and make recommendations to each country for scientific resource management via SeaBOS.
The Nissui Group does not handle resources that are clearly unmanaged or that continue to be unidentified, nor does it handle resources IUU (illegal, unreported, unregulated) fishing or forced labor are suspected to be involved. We will implement fishery resource surveys on a regular basis so that we can maintain an understanding of the ever-changing state of marine resources. Furthermore, we are committed to the sustainable use of marine products to meet market demand in the future.
By participating in the “Pacific Bluefin Tuna Conservation Pledge” by WWF Japan, Nissui makes its intention clear to promote further global agreement in regard to the management of Pacific Bluefin Tuna resources together with other Japanese companies supporting this cause.
Please find details at WWF Japan HP.
Australian Longline Pty Ltd. (Australia), which is one of the Nissui Group companies outside of Japan, is primarily engaged in Toothfish fishing in the Antarctic Ocean (subject to Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification).
In January 2021, Antarctic Discovery—a vessel owned by Australian Longline—became the world's first to acquire the Responsible Fishing Vessel Standard (RFVS) certification. RFVS is a fishing vessel-based certification program and is operated on a global scale by non-profit organization Global Seafood Alliance (GSA). Audits are conducted with respect to the safety and well-being of employees working on board the vessel from the viewpoint of human rights, in addition to fishing vessel management and catch traceability. Having acquired RFVS certification, Australian Longline has demonstrated to the general public that it abides by high standards in terms of welfare and safety for crew members on board its vessel and is not involved in illegal practices such as slave labor and poor living conditions. Australian longline acquired the RFVS certification for their new vessel Antarctic Aurora as well, in February 2021.
Flatfish Ltd. (UK), which is also one of the Nissui Group companies outside of Japan, contributed to RFVS as a member of the Technical Working Group of RFVS by such means as serving as a peer reviewer of RFVS in 2019 and 2020. Flatfish, which had been in favor of this certification scheme not only since the beginning at the time of its launch in 2006 but also upon its subsequent resumption in 2016, provided ongoing support toward its realization. Also, Flatfish believes that RFVS—which consists of two core principles, namely, “vessel management & safety systems” and “crew rights, safety and wellbeing”—is an extremely important standard for the welfare of fishing boat crew and recommends the adoption of RFVS certification across its entire supply chain.
In fishery operations, incidental capture of seabirds in place of fish intended to be captured has become an issue. Nissui Group companies engaged in fishery operations are striving to prevent the bycatch of seabirds, having introduced tori lines (Note 1) and moon pools (Note 2).
(Note 1) Tori line: A device that prevents birds from approaching the bait by towing a rope to which streamers and tapes are attached from the tip of a long pole fixed at the stern of the fishing boat; also called tori pole (Source: World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) website).
(Note 2) Moon pool: A round well in a vessel's hull through which a longline is hauled in a longline fishing boat, which lowers the risk of wild birds being entangled than when the task is performed on the deck. It also helps ensure the safety of crew members.
Moon pool in vessel of Australian Longline Pty Ltd.
Gorton’s has been forming partnership with New England Aquarium (NEAq), Boston MA. USA, to preserve marine environment and secure sustainable marine resources. The partnership started in 2008 when Gorton’s asked evaluation of its seafood products from scientific and sustainable points of view and marked its 13th year in December 2021.
Along with Monterey Aquarium, NEAq has global knowledge of marine resource research and provides scientific and meaningful advice and support including movement of fishery, aquaculture, fish feed and breeding in the conduct of making efforts to promote sustainable fishery.
In addition, Gorton’s itself developed Sustainability Action Plan, and has been promoting the plan by exchanging opinion with NEAq and implementing progress management by setting KPI.
Based on the strong trust with NEAq until now, Gorton’s, member of the Nissui Group, will make efforts toward sustainable usage of resources and preservation of the environment in a positive manner.
In order to enhance the sustainable use of marine resources, innovations will also need to be made to the methods of fishing. The problems of fishing methods that destroy the marine environment and bycatch, i.e. the incidental capture of non-target species have been raising concern, and the development of fishing methods that cause the minimum amount of damage to living organisms and the environment has become imperative, for the sake of preventing the marine ecosystem from deteriorating.
The Sealord Group, Ltd. (New Zealand), the Nissui Group company, in partnership with major domestic fisheries companies, Aotearoa Fisheries, Ltd. and Sanford, Ltd. and the research institute, Plant & Food Research, Ltd. which studies sustainable agriculture and fisheries business, has successfully developed the PSH (Precision Seafood Harvesting) fishing method, which reduces bycatch and allows the targeted fish to be caught alive.
The PSH method uses fishing equipment made of flexible PVC which inflates into a tube shape once seawater flows in, allowing fish to be landed live and still swimming, while undersized or smaller species escape through specifically sized holes along the length of the fishing equipment.
Scientific tests have shown that snapper harvested with the PSH system have a 100% chance of survival if they are fished from a depth of 0 to 20 meters. While the survival rates tend to decline with increasing depth, tests have proven that fish caught with the PSH system have better survival rates than those caught using other conventional fishing methods.
Hence, it is believed that the PSH system will be an effective method for studying deep sea organisms and catching fish in the deep depths of the ocean.
The four companies, mentioned above, through repeated trial and error including investigative research over the approximately ten years from the project’s launch in 2005, were finally able to commercialize (practical application) the PSH fishing method in 2016. The Sealord Group, Ltd. is currently expanding the use of the PSH fishing method and making efforts to contribute to the spread of sustainable fishery.