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Commercial Fishing


Adjudicator Confirms Recommendation to Certify Tuna Fishery

Adjudicator confirms recommendation to certify tuna fishery. The recommendation by conformity assessment body (CAB) Acoura Marine to certify the Echebastar Indian Ocean purse seine skipjack tuna fishery to the MSC Fisheries Standard has been confirmed by the independent adjudicator (IA).

Certification will be subject to amendments following an objection from WWF. The CAB will now have to update the Final Report satisfactorily before moving to certify the fishery in the coming weeks. This follows an 18-month process, during which fisheries experts employed by Acoura Marine assessed the fishery.

MSC assessment is a process that fisheries enter voluntarily and this assessment included extensive stakeholder input and peer review. If certified, seafood from the Echebastar Indian Ocean skipjack tuna purse seine fishery will be eligible to carry the blue MSC label.

“The MSC Fisheries Standard is designed to recognise well managed fisheries, and to incentivise those with a clear pathway towards greater sustainability through positive changes to fishing practices and behaviours. This approach is contributing to achieving healthy oceans for the future,” said Michel Kaiser, Science and Standards Director at the MSC.

“This process illustrates the efforts made by the fishery to address environmental concerns and improve its sustainability. However, to remain certified, the fishery will need to work hard to improve its performance in line with the conditions set during the assessment.” 

As the first fishery assessed against the MSC Fisheries Standard to use drifting fish aggregating devices (dFADs) to target schools of tuna, the assessment team paid particular attention to bycatch, especially with regard to endangered, threatened and protected (ETP) species. The fishery also introduced a considerable number of new conservation and assurance measures, including:

– 100% observer coverage from 2014 onwards, which provides far greater assurance of compliance in the fishery and will improve the quality of data generated.

– FAD design has been modified to ensure that all FADs are non-entangling to minimise the likelihood of silky shark and turtle bycatch.

– Three vessels in the fleet have introduced second conveyer belts for processing catch, this means it is possible to rapidly release any unwanted catch directly back to the sea and ensure higher survival rates.

Following certification, the fishery will also be required to deliver improvements under eight conditions. These include conducting research to improve understanding of the fishery’s impacts on ETP species and demonstrating that FADs that become lost and stranded on coral reefs are highly unlikely to reduce coral reef structure and function to a point where there would be serious harm.

A key part of assessment against the MSC Fisheries Standard is the opportunity for stakeholders to object to certification and to submit additional evidence. The Echebastar fishery was assessed against v2.0 of the MSC Fisheries Standard following the MSC’s Streamlining Pilot Process. This process required more information about the fishery to be available before the site visit and improved opportunities for stakeholders to input. A mediation stage to encourage CABs, fisheries and stakeholders to resolve issues in a timely and cost-efficient manner was also introduced.

The aim of the Streamlining Pilot Process was to reduce complexity, create efficiencies, and improve stakeholder engagement while maintaining the same level of rigour as the original process.

WWF International took part in the assessment process and objected to the certification of the Echebastar fishery on six grounds, primarily around the status of yellowfin tuna in the Indian Ocean, FAD management, and strategies in place to deal with silky shark impacts. After considering all of the evidence available, John McKendrick QC, a legal expert with extensive law, and mediation experience, dismissed four of these objections. One resulted in the CAB providing a proposed re-written rationale offering greater detail and clarity on a score related to yellowfin tuna, and one was withdrawn by WWF following an agreement that the fishery will investigate the effects of FADs on key ecosystem elements including both tuna and sharks.

In summarising his decision, John McKendrick QC said: “I am satisfied the CAB’s scoring is justified and the decision to certify the Echebastar Fishery is one open to the CAB in the exercise of its professional judgement.”

On the specific contribution of WWF he also added:  “Whilst I agree with the CAB’s scoring, it is important to acknowledge areas of the final report will be strengthened because of WWF’s helpful engagement and crucially important scientific research will now be carried out in respect of the effect on sharks of the deployment of FADs in the Indian Ocean. This is an important conservation measure and one that will add to the protection of marine environments whilst permitting sustainable fishing. WWF’s engagement strengthens the overall mission of the MSC.” 

Two other objectors, IPNLF and Shark Project, withdrew from the objection process prematurely and so their objections were not considered in the IA’s report.