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Commercial Fishing



Most tuna stocks not being fished sustainably, says new report. Only five out of 19 major commercial tuna stocks are being managed to avoid overfishing and restore depleted fish populations — and have earned a passing score for Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Principle 1 — according to independent scientists in a report published by the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF).

 ISSF 2019-02: An Evaluation of the Sustainability of Global Tuna Stocks Relative to Marine Stewardship Council Criteria attributes this failure to poor stock status, the lack of well-defined harvest control rules(HCRs), and the lack of effective tools to control harvest. Only three of the stocks have well-defined harvest control rules from Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs), which continue progressing slowly in this area.

The January 2018 version of the report had found that six out of 19 stocks were being managed to avoid overfishing, meaning the situation has not improved in the last year. While South Pacific albacore Principle 1 score has improved thanks to further progress by WCPFC on this stock’s harvest strategy workplan, two other stocks have seen their overall Principle 1 scores worsen: eastern Pacific bigeye due mostly to uncertainties in its latest stock assessment, and Atlantic yellowfin tuna due to weak tools in place to control exploitation that may be hindering its rebuilding plan.

An Evaluation of the Sustainability of Global Tuna Stocks takes a consistent, comprehensive approach to scoring tuna stocks against certain components of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard. The MSC is a global certification program for fisheries.

The report — updated four times since first published in 2013, and organized by individual tuna stock and tuna RFMO — is designed to:

  • Provide a basis for comparing between stock scores and tuna RFMO scores as assessed by the same experts.
  • Become a useful source document for future tuna certifications or in the establishment of tuna Fishery Improvement Projects(FIPs).
  • Prioritize ISSF projects and advocacy efforts against initiatives that will improve low performance indicator

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

The report does not address bluefin tuna stocks.