ISSF focusing on advancing sustainability of tuna fisheries

Published on
May 13, 2022
A catch of frozen tuna being unloaded at the dock in Japan.

The International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) has released its 2021 annual report, which this year it titled “Transparent Accountability Across Tuna Fisheries.”

SSF is committed to achieving sustainable tuna fisheries through work with industry partners and advocacy appeals directed at regional fishery management organizations (RFMOs).

“The theme we’ve chosen for this year’s report – fostering greater transparency and accountability – could apply to ISSF’s work in any year. But it seems especially relevant now, as we emerge from a pandemic that underscored our dependence on science and responsibilities to each other,” ISSF President Susan Jackson said. “Openness and responsiveness are embedded in our organizational DNA: ISSF exists because eight forward-thinking seafood companies in 2009 were willing to put themselves on the line to learn from fisheries scientists about how to become better stewards of the sea.”

The report reviews and covers the foundation’s activities to promote best practices in tuna and ocean conservation with fishers, tuna companies, and RFMOs through global collaborations with marine research projects, advocacy efforts, environmental nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), scientific agencies, and more.

“This long-term perspective and commitment to continuous improvement remain fundamental to ISSF’s guiding objective: helping tuna fisheries meet the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard without conditions,” Jackson said. “Transparency and accountability can take many forms, but both hinge on gathering, disseminating, analyzing, and activating data. We can’t make adjustments or fill gaps until we know where or why something is broken, what is missing, or whether previous actions or interventions have been effective.”

The report contains highlights of the milestones that ISSF reached in 2021, and examines two major topics related to more sustainable tuna fisheries today – electronic monitoring (EM) and supply chain transparency.

ISSF Scientist Hilario Murua said EM can benefit tuna fisheries and recommended steps for setting standards for vessels.

“In short, EM improves the science underpinning the sustainable use of resources. It also strengthens the monitoring, control, and surveillance of fishing operations to fight illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities,” Murua wrote.

ISSF and the Global Tuna Alliance have contributed to greater transparency and traceability, environmental sustainability, and social responsibility in tuna fisheries, Global Tuna Alliance Executive Director Tom Pickerell, a member of the ISSF Environmental Stakeholder Committee, wrote in the report. Pickerell called for further action on transparency and accountability in the tuna supply chain, and urged stakeholders to contribute to the effort.

“It’s easy – and advantageous – to speak the ‘language’ of seafood sustainability. But it’s challenging to do the work that sustainability requires,” Pickerell wrote.

Several major ISSF accomplishments are also listed in the report, including the successful advancement of research on biodegradable fish-aggregating devices, increased outreach to fishery improvement projects (FIPs), and the completion of Marine Stewardship Council certification assessments.

ISSF also recently published the results of its ISSF Annual Conservation Measures and Commitments Compliance Report, which tracks companies’ progress in conforming with ISSF’s 32 conservation measures. The report showed a conformance rate of 99.6 percent by 25 ISSF participating companies as of March 2022.

These measures include requirements like demonstrating the ability to trace products, submitting quarterly purchase data to RFMO scientific bodies, establishing and publishing policies to prohibit shark-finning, and avoiding transactions with vessels on every RFMO’s IUU Fishing list.

The company also announced on 3 May that it has strengthened its conservation measures in regard to protections for sharks, sea turtles, and sea birds; augmented its shark-finning prevention measures; and added new FAD-management policies.

“ISSF continuously evolves our science-based conservation measures that guide seafood companies and tuna fishers to more sustainable practices,” Jackson said.  

Photo courtesy of Lya Fichmann/Shutterstock

Contributing editor/Reporting from Hawaii, U.S.A.

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