Major U.S. Fish Importer Joins the Nature Conservancy in Landmark Agreement to Help Save World’s Largest Snapper Fishery

Netuno USA, the largest U.S. importer of snapper from Indonesia, agrees to a minimum trading that avoids pre-reproductive-age fish, improving global seafood sustainability. Importer joins a growing number of seafood companies who are taking critical steps to save one of world’s most vulnerable fisheries.

MIAMI (February 7, 2019) — Netuno USA, a Florida-based seafood company and the largest U.S. importer of frozen snapper and grouper, is taking new action to protect this lucrative but vulnerable fishery from collapse in a landmark agreement with The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the world’s largest conservation group.

In the agreement, signed Thursday by Netuno and TNC representatives in Miami, Netuno has committed not to buy immature snapper and grouper from Indonesia, the world’s largest supplier of these in-demand fish species that are sold in supermarkets and served in restaurants throughout the world. With business operations that span the fish supply chain — from catch to grocery aisle — Netuno is the first full supply-line company to sign the TNC pact.

While bigger may be better with some types of fish, demand for smaller, immature snapper has been driven primarily by the American market, which has a growing appetite for consumer-ready, pan-sized fillets. But market preference for these immature fish may impair the long-term sustainability snapper/grouper fishery. Avoiding the purchase of immature fish, on the other hand, ensures that each fish can contribute to the reproductive cycle at least once, and can encourage Indonesian fishers and processors to shift focus to larger fish.

Netuno joins Honolulu-based Norpac Fisheries Export, which already signed onto the minimum trading size commitment too. If widely adopted by other seafood exporters purchasing snapper and grouper from Indonesia, TNC’s sustainability campaign could help to prevent a collapse of this sprawling, deepwater fishery, where over-targeting of pre-reproductive age fish that cannot spawn has led to significant declines in the population of snapper and grouper species.

In addition to agreeing to buy and trade only fish larger than the average size of first maturity, Netuno will also share data on purchased catch, such as origin, species, and size—information that is critical to fully assessing the health of the snapper/grouper fishery.

If we are to secure the future of this important fishery, the industry needs to make a collective commitment to reform, and that starts with shifting our buying focus to larger, reproductive-age fish that have already contributed to the overall population,” said Andre Brugger, Sustainability, Compliance and QA Manager from Netuno USA. “We know this commitment requires effort and accountability, but by joining The Nature Conservancy, we hope to encourage our industry colleagues to follow suit. Come on in. The water’s fine.”

Snapper and grouper are highly prized fish species in the $130 billion global seafood trade: the retail value of Indonesia’s snapper/grouper fishery alone is estimated at $500 million. Recent Indonesian government assessments of the snapper/grouper fishery—where an estimated 8,600 fishing vessels, from motorized canoes to large ships, catch about 78,000 metric tons annually—indicate that it is largely either fully exploited or over-exploited. 

TNC, which has worked to improve the health of the Indonesian snapper/grouper fishery since 2014, is part of a growing stakeholder coalition that includes government, industry, and civil society seeking to address overfishing issues. Through the SNAPPER (Supporting Nature and People – Partnership for Enduring Resources) Project, TNC is collaborating on a data-driven, transparent, and adaptive management system that also ensures prosperity and well-being of the fishing communities and businesses that depend on it.

Collaboration with local fishers in Indonesia is key to this initiative, said Peter Mous, TNC’s Director of Fisheries for Asia Pacific. “After working closely for years with more than 250 fishers across Indonesia, it is important that buyers around the world support these fishing communities as they make real change here on the water,” Mous said. “We look forward to engaging with other companies interested in making a commitment to the sustainability of this fishery as Norpac and Netuno did. Together, we can create a tipping point toward healthy and profitable fisheries.”

To assess the health of the snapper/grouper fishery, TNC is working with fishers on a comprehensive data collection program. Participants have a position tracker on board and photograph each fish they catch, with the images later analyzed for location of catch as well as species and size composition. These data are forwarded in real time to the Indonesia Agency for Marine Fisheries Research, where they are analyzed to inform management of this important fishery. As of January 2019, over 1 million individual observations have been recorded, vastly improving the data available and reducing the time and cost of sharing this critical data.

The SNAPPER program is supported by USAID, Walton Family Foundation, and The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, among other partners.