Assessors must reconsider parts of potential bluefin MSC certification

An independent adjudicator, analyzing formal objections to the potential Marine Stewardship Council certification of the Usufuku Honten East Atlantic bluefin tuna fishery, has upheld one of the four objections presented.

The objections were presented by the World Wildlife Fund and The Pew Charitable Trusts in January, after the assessment body, Control Union Pesca Ltd., recommended that the fishery be certified in December 2019. Of the four objections, the independent adjudicator upheld objections to the evidence used to conclude how long bluefin tuna take to grow and reproduce, according to a release from MSC.

“This evidence has bearing on how quickly fish stocks are expected to rebuild, to meet the MSC Fisheries Standard,” MSC stated.

The statement by the independent adjudicator, Eldon Greenberg, indicates that WWF’s argument about the science surrounding the calculations determining “generation time” (GT) needing another look had merit.

“At a minimum, WWF contends that this science should have led the CAB [conformity assessment body] to have known that its calculation of GT using the MSC approximation was questionable, and to probe the issue more deeply,” Greenberg wrote.

The adjudicator asserts that Control Union Pesca Ltd. should reexamine its initial methods.

“In my judgement, the critical question is not so much what the CAB knew or should have known during the assessment, but rather what it knows, and what it should be required to do, at this stage of the process,” Greenberg wrote.

He concluded the issue needs to be reexamined before any certification could be made.

The decision is not final, and does not mean the fishery has not been certified. It means that the assessment body – Control Union Pesca Ltd. – has to present a response to the objections to the adjudicator by 10 July.

“This bluefin tuna fishery – Usufuku Honten – is not yet certified, and we await the independent assessment body’s response to these findings and further input from the fishery and WWF,” Rohan Currey, chief science and standards officer at the MSC, said. “Robust contributions from stakeholders such as WWF and [Pew] are an essential and welcome part of the independent assessment process. It’s clear from the independent adjudicator’s comments that both organizations have influenced his decision.”

Regardless of how the matter is adjudicated, Currey said the fishery must be managed sustainably.

“Whatever the outcome of this specific assessment, there is an urgent need for bluefin tuna stocks to be managed sustainably,” Currey said. “We appreciate the contribution of all parties involved in this process in working toward achieving that outcome.”  


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