ISSF report finds majority of tuna stocks don’t meet Marine Stewardship Council standard

A school of tuna.

A new report by the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) has found that only eight of 23 major commercial tuna stocks avoid overfishing and maintain biomass targets when measured against Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standards.

The report, “An Evaluation of the Sustainability of Global Tuna Stocks Relative to Marine Stewardship Council Criteria,” found that only Western Atlantic skipjack, North Atlantic albacore, South Atlantic albacore, Eastern Atlantic bluefin, Western Pacific skipjack, Eastern Pacific yellowfin, Eastern Pacific skipjack, and Indian Ocean skipjack achieve a passing score for “sustainable fish stocks” when measured against MSC criteria. According to ISSF, an increased number of stocks failed to meet the MSC standard because managing bodies failed to implement harvest-control rules within the past year.

The MSC standard requires fisheries are “conducted in a matter that does not lead to overfishing or depletion of the exploited populations.” Stocks receiving failing scores when measured against the principle were yellowfin, bigeye, Eastern skipjack, Western bluefin, and Mediterranean albacore tuna in the Atlantic, and Western yellowfin, Western bigeye, Eastern bigeye, Northern albacore, Southern albacore, and Pacific bluefin tuna in the Pacific. And in the Indian Ocean, yellowfin, bigeye, and albacore all “received overall principle-level failing scores.” Southern bluefin also received a failing score, the ISSF said.

The ISSF said the report, which has been updated regularly since 2013, is designed to “provide a basis for comparing stock scores and tuna RFMO scores as assessed by the same experts,” as well as to become a source of information for establishing fishery improvement projects and prioritize ISSF’s projects.

The report also acknowledged that in some cases, fisheries are not correlated to stock status, as sometimes two separate fisheries may be targeting the same stock of fish. 

“While the report focuses on tuna stock status and sustainability as well as on RFMO policies, it does not address national or bilateral management systems, or gear- or fleet-specific ecosystem impacts – all of which are also considered within the MSC assessment methodology,” the ISSF said. 

The overall objective of the report, the ISSF said, is to “continuously improve the sustainability of global tuna fisheries and the ecosystems that support them” to help more stocks reach the MSC standard.

“We achieve this through the development and implementation of verifiable, science-based practices, measurable commitments, and conservation management measures by participating companies and advocacy to tuna RFMOs,” it said.  

Photo courtesy of Rich Carey/Shutterstock


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