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Case study

Sea Change: A Bold Partnership to Advance Sustainable Fishing

We worked with The Nature Conservancy on an ambitious plan for sustainable tuna fishing.

At a Glance

The Full Story

The depletion of marine resources is a critical issue that must be addressed as part of a broader food systems transformation effort. For several years, we have worked with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to help launch an innovative approach to supporting sustainable fishing practices and combating overfishing and illegal fishing: Pacific Island Tuna (PIT), a canned tuna company operating with industry-leading environmental, labor, and traceability practices.

Created in partnership with the Republic of the Marshall Islands and with initial funding from TNC, PIT aims to prove the business case for a more sustainable and commercially viable tuna supply chain that retailers and consumers can trust and other companies can emulate—and in doing so, create lasting, systemic change.

Building healthy, sustainable fisheries and improving the socioeconomic return for the Pacific Island nations that supply the majority of the world’s tuna require aligning multiple interests around the globe. In PIT’s model, the Pacific Island countries have direct ownership of the fish, from dock to retail; fishers receive a sustainability premium for their catch; and retailers gain supply chain traceability and visibility.

In 2020, leveraging our analytical expertise, experience with rapid prototyping, and test-and-learn capabilities, we helped establish the commercial case for PIT’s model. At the time, PIT found itself with a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem. Stakeholders—including Pacific Island country partners, supply chain partners, and retailers—wanted to understand the details before committing, but many of those details would change depending on the nature and scale of their commitment.

As part of our work, we helped design a long-term contract and potential pricing model that would deliver value to retailers and allow PIT to operate with a lean structure, providing transparency and stability in what has traditionally been a highly unpredictable commodity market.

We also analyzed and modeled PIT’s costs and financial forecasts—evaluating each decision that could be made in fishing practices, monitoring, and enforcement, and in fish handling and processing, to understand the impact on a variety of sustainability factors as well as cost implications—to ensure it could provide more sustainable tuna at a reasonable cost.  PIT now reports that “100% of our profits go directly to community improvement, marine conservation, and climate change resilience projects.”

Most recently, we supported the commercial acceleration of Pacific Island Tuna, which resulted in a landmark deal to supply Walmart with more sustainable canned tuna now sold under the retailer's Great Value label. 

PIT represents a revolutionary step toward creating the necessary incentives and economics to ensure greater environmental and social outcomes. It also serves as a powerful model for other industries to replicate.

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