Several tuna stocks fall short of MSC's sustainability standards
2017-02-10 19:05:24   copyfrom:    hits:

Shoal of tuna (Photo: RADIO IRD-Ifremer M Taquet ISSF)UNITED STATESFriday, February 10, 2017,02:10 (GMT + 9)Only 11

Shoal of tuna. (Photo: RADIO/IRD-Ifremer/M.Taquet/ISSF)


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Friday, February 10, 2017, 02:10 (GMT + 9)


Only 11 of the 19 main tuna stocks exploited by commercial fishing are being managed to avoid overfishing and restore depleted stocks, according to a report by the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF).

According to the NGO, this is in part because the majority (16) of them are not protected by well-defined harvest control rules (HCRs) from Regional Fishing Management Organizations (RFMOs).

The report, “An Evaluation of the Sustainability of Global Tuna Stocks Relative to Marine Stewardship Council Criteria”, takes a global, comprehensive approach to scoring stocks against certain components of the MSC standard in response to inconsistencies among assessments of tuna stocks against the MSC certification standard.

In addition, the study, authored by experienced MSC assessors Joseph E. Powers and Paul A. H. Medley and updated twice since first published in 2013, is aimed at:

  • Providing a basis for comparing between stock scores as assessed by the same experts;
  • Being a useful source document for future tuna certifications or in the establishment of tuna Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs);
  • Offering a “snapshot” of the current status of the stocks, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of RFMOs;
  • Prioritizing ISSF projects and advocacy efforts against initiatives that will improve low performance indicator scores.

The scores in this report focus on stock status (MSC Principle 1) and the international management aspects relevant to RFMOs (part of MSC Principle 3) and are based on publicly available fishery and RFMO data. Each of these Principles is evaluated in relationship to Performance Indicators (PIs) within each Principle.

The report scores tuna bigeye, yellowfin, albacore, and skipjack stocks — but not bluefin tuna— and each tuna RFMO (ICCATIATTCWCPFC, andIOTC).

An 80 is a passing score, below 60 is a failing score, and 60–79 would indicate a conditional pass, with the requirement that any deficiency is addressed within five years if a fishery were to become MSC-certified.

The report concludes that among seven tuna species in the Atlantic Ocean, only one, Northern albacore, “has recovered from biomass reductions several decades ago”.  This fishery received an overall approval rating for Principle 1.

In contrast, in the Pacific, only one stock — Western bigeye, which has been undergoing a steady decline since the 1970s — received an overall principle-level failing score.

Likewise, in the Indian Ocean, only yellowfin received an overall failing score, however, the outlook for that stock in 2016 is slightly more optimistic than it was in 2015.

Yellowfin stocks in the Eastern Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans require rebuilding, as do Mediterranean albacore; Atlantic bigeye; and Western Pacific bigeye and Eastern Pacific bigeye.

Mediterranean albacore and Western Pacific bigeye had the most failing scores on individual performance indicators — including stock status, stock rebuilding, and harvest control rules and tools.

Only Eastern Pacific skipjack received passing scores of 80 on each of the six performance indicators for Principle 1.

With reference to Principle 3, two RFMOs were examined in the report — WCPFC and IATTC — and received passing scores for all seven performance indicators under this Principle.

The other two RFMOs — ICCAT and IOTC — received conditional pass scores on these performance indicators: “consultation, roles and responsibilities” and “compliance and enforcement.”

ICCAT was given a conditional pass score for “legal and customary framework.” Other performance indicators include “long term objectives”; “fishery specific objectives”; “decision-making processes”; and “management performance evaluation.”

All four RFMOs received overall principle-level passing scores from the authors.

The evaluation report also includes detailed remarks on each stock, evaluations of the four RFMOs, and comprehensive reference citations.

A comparison of the December 2016 report to the previous March 2015 version reveals that good progress has been made in the adoption of interim harvest control rules for several stocks in IATTC and IOTC, as well as in the RFMO management frameworks (previously, both ICCAT and IOTC failed to score 80 or higher).

While the evaluation report focuses on tuna stock status and sustainability as well as on RFMO policies, it does not address national or bilateral fishing jurisdictions, gear- or fleet-specific ecosystem impacts, or fisheries’ specific ecosystems.

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