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DECLINE IN SHARK FINNING IN TUNA FISHERY

DECLINE IN SHARK FINNING IN TUNA FISHERY

Decline in shark finning in tuna fishery. New data shows a continuing decline in the number of shark finning incidents occurring in the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) purse seine tuna fishery, including the MSC certified skipjack and yellowfin free-school fishery.

As part of its ongoing review and consultation on shark finning, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) commissioned fisheries experts, Poseidon Aquatic Resource Management to conduct research into shark finning in tropical tuna fisheries engaged in the MSC program.

This research has provided the MSC with new data showing a decline in the number of shark finning incidents within the MSC certified PNA purse seine tuna fishery, from 266 incidents in 2013 to 3 in 2017, a reduction of 99%.

Similar reductions have been observed across the non-certified fleet. The total 5 incidents of shark finning, reported for certified and non-certified catches in 2017, were observed within nearly 10,000 monitored sets – an incidence rate of 0.05%.

This is the most recent, comprehensive data available from the observer programme for fishing activities in PNA and Tokelau waters, as held by the Pacific Community (SPC) on behalf of its members. The data set is collected by independent observers who join every single tuna fishing trip in the region. Observers undergo a debriefing process soon after the trip and comprehensive quality control on data entered into the regional observer database ensures a high level of confidence in the data.

Shark finning, the practice of removing a shark’s fins before discarding the remaining carcass back into the sea, was effectively banned within the PNA fishery in 2010. The ban was further reinforced by legislation to protect oceanic white tip2, whale3, and silky4 sharks, as well as national-level regulations5.

Dr Francis Neat, Head of Strategic Research at the MSC, said: “Whilst any shark finning is deeply regrettable, these new data confirm the previously reported downward trends in shark finning incidents in the PNA fishery. These data show the fishery has virtually eliminated shark finning, which is a tremendous success story against the backdrop of the tens of millions of shark fins that are estimated to be traded globally each year6. This achievement is one of the best examples of how an MSC certified fishery has taken decisive action to deliver substantial improvements to ensure responsible fishing practices in order to maintain its MSC certification.” 

This data has been shared with the conformity assessment body (CAB), Lloyd’s Register, responsible for assessing the MSC certified component of PNA fishery and will be used in the upcoming annual surveillance audit, ensuring that the fishy continues to meet the MSC’s requirements.. It has also been provided to the UK government’s Environmental Audit Committee as part of its inquiry into Sustainable Seas, extending the timeline of the data already provided from 2015 to 2017.

Since 2013, the MSC Fisheries Standard has required fisheries to demonstrate the likelihood that shark finning is not taking place at the point that they are first certified, or recertified. Certified fisheries are required to demonstrate that the level of external validation and regulations in place are sufficient to enable the fishery to verify that shark finning is not taking place. This can include the level of observer coverage and dockside monitoring within the fishery.

The MSC is committed to ensuring the Fisheries Standard remains aligned with what is globally considered to be best practice. It recently embarked on its Fisheries Standard Review which occurs every 5 years. Shark finning requirements will be considered under this review with the aim to ensure that requirements continue to reflect best practice globally.

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