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TUPA: a united ambition to bring more responsibility to the canned tuna market

TUPA: a united ambition to bring more responsibility to the canned tuna market

The Tuna Protection Alliance (TUPA)

With nearly five million tonnes fished annually, tuna is one of the most important fisheries in the world. It is also a booming industry worth billions of dollars. But today one third of these stocks are over-exploited or at limits of over-exploitation, due mainly to inadequate and opaque management of tuna fisheries, giving free rein to illegal and uncontrolled fishing practices that are putting pressure on this delicate ecosystem.

The Tuna Protection Alliance (TUPA) is an initiative driven by canned tuna market players who recognise that retailers, producers and fleets must work together to quickly adopt better fishing practices and management to restore balance and safeguard resources for future generations.

Launched in September 2018, TUPA focuses on skipjack (Katsuwonus pelamis), yellowfin (Tunnus albacares), bigeye (Thunnus obesus) and albacore tuna (Thunnus alalunga), which account for the majority of tuna stocks. The members share the same commitment and also work to build cohesion with all stakeholders in the sector.

TUPA has three main objectives:

  • Preserve the resource
  • Fight illegal fishing
  • Respect workers' rights

The group works to implement progressive change while taking into account socio-economic, environmental, and scientific recommendations.

TUPA members (as shown above) are joined by Earthworm France as coordinators and a number of organisations who contribute their valuable expertise of the tuna industry. Contributors currently are WWF France, the FIAC (Federation of Preserved Food Industries), Orthongel (French organisation of frozen tuna producers), the GTA (Global Tuna Alliance), and the IPNLF (International Pole & Line Foundation). Their role is to provide a critical view of the group's orientations and actions. Therefore, these organisations can advise, make suggestions, and challenge the group's strategy.

Since its launch in September 2018, the Tuna Protection Alliance's ambition is organised around two major axes:

  • Development of transparency and monitoring tools
  • Communication, with one voice, to stakeholders in the sector

TUPA notably voices its vision of the sector and appeals towards tuna managing organizations on its LinkedIn and Twitter accounts.

2021 TUPA action plan


Actions: the TUPA will continue to participate in the NGOTunaForum. This coalition brings together more than 30 NGOs and other individuals and organizations that work comprehensively on global tuna sustainability issues. With the help of this network, the group identified the main asks for all the tuna RFMOs (Regional fisheries management organisations). The priority subjects are gathered around 3 pillars: good stocks management and ecosystems; transparency; information, and data sharing. As a representative of the French market’s voice, the TUPA is part of the Market Activation Working Group.

Also, the TUPA aims at reinforcing its RFMO advocacy, through the participation in RFMO sessions, LDAC meetings, direct exchanges with relevant delegations, and communication on social media (Linkedin and Twitter). Last year, the TUPA conducted more than 10 advocacy actions, in partnership with the Global Tuna Alliance, an independent group of UK retailers and supply-chain companies. 2021 promises to be an even more active year in terms of advocacy!


Support: several internal thematic webinars will be organised with relevant stakeholders: the thematics studied will focus on the FADs, the Cape Town Agreement, the IPNLF’s new tools, and the Fairtrade certification. Several synthetic studies will be conducted as well, regarding issues related to each fishing technique, the solutions to lost FADs, and the research on farmed/ fattened tuna.

The TUPA pays attention to report to its members the important news and alerts. A newsletter is shared every month and the TUPA keeps discussing with stakeholders linked to the tuna sector.

Transparency and monitoring

After the 2020 mapping exercise of all tuna vessels supplying the TUPA, 2021 will be the opportunity to investigate the FAD-free guarantees.

In parallel, in 2020 we conducted a study regarding social issues in the fishing sector. The report ended on several existing solutions to fight social abuses; solutions we would like to study for in-depth analysis and a potential monitoring project.

2020 Achievements

Transparency and monitoring

A mapping exercise allowed to bring transparency to the members’ tuna supply chains on the French & Belgium markets, including retailer’s brands, national brands, and catering products.

TUPA’s partner OceanMind conducted a multi-level analysis: verifying the identity of vessels as compared to the declarative data collected during the mapping exercise and their activity at sea; particularly by studying their trajectory, thanks to the automated identification system (AIS) signals.

Technical support

Following recent campaigns documenting forced labor and suspected observer deaths on tuna vessels, the TUPA carried out exploratory bibliographic work on the social risks linked to tuna fishing. Also, a Pole and Line fisheries study was conducted in order to assess the practices and challenges of the Pole & Line fisheries supplying the TUPA members.


Since 2019, TUPA collaborates with the NGO TunaForum, and specially the GlobalTunaAlliance. Together TUPA and GTA joined forces in 2020 for advocacy actions, on behalf of the French and UK market, with a strong focus on Indian Ocean RFMO (Regional Fishery Management Organization).


In 2019, 91% of members’ supplies came from purse seine fishing, of which 60% was under FADs (Fishing Aggregating Devices) and 40% under free tuna swimming schools. The remaining 9% mainly came from pole and line fishing.
Skipjack tuna was the most represented specie (by 64%), followed by Yellowfin tuna (by 34%). The main fishing areas TUPA members are sourcing from are the Eastern Atlantic Ocean (52%) and the Indian Ocean (24%).
Almost 90% of supplies were traced back to ships, while 11% of the vessels’ identity declared by suppliers could not be proved. 700+ vessels were supplying TUPA members altogether.


Before entering the Tuna Protection Alliance, all companies must sign the charter and share the group’s values. These values are transcribed in a document entitled ‘Manifesto for a more sustainable tuna sector’. This manifesto reflects the common ambition of the group: by 2025, to offer responsible tuna for sale.

Click here to view the Tuna Protection Alliance Manifesto

Further information

If you would like any more information about the Tuna Protection Alliance you can reach out to the coordinators:

You can also call us at +33 3 20 31 63 39 or join us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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