Maldivian tuna fisheries seek MSC eco-label


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
July 27, 2009

The list of tuna fisheries engaged in the Marine Stewardship Council program is growing.

The London-based nonprofit announced on Tuesday that the Maldivian bigeye, yellowfin and skipjack tuna fisheries are now being assessed as well managed and sustainable — the world’s largest tuna fisheries to engage in the MSC program to date.

The three pole-and-line and handline fisheries — the only fishing methods legally allowed in Maldivian waters — target tuna in the Republic of Maldives’ exclusive economic zone. They annually harvest around 900 metric tons of bigeye, 20,000 metric tons of yellowfin and 97,000 metric tons of skipjack. They operate year-round, though the bulk of the catch occurs from August to April.

Maldivian bigeye and yellowfin tuna are sold as frozen whole fish to international markets, mainly to Asia. Larger fish are loined and a portion is exported as fresh fish. The higher-value handline tuna is sold fresh or frozen to Europe, the United States and Japan.

Currently, two tuna fisheries are MSC certified — the American Albacore Fishing Association Pacific albacore tuna, north and south. They were certified as sustainable in August 2007. Also, four tuna fisheries worldwide are undergoing assessment — American Western Fish Boat Owners Association North Pacific albacore tuna, Canadian Highly Migratory Species Foundation British Columbia North Pacific albacore tuna, New Zealand albacore tuna troll fishery, St. Helena (South Atlantic) pole-and-line and rod-and-line yellowfin, bigeye, albacore and skipjack tuna.

“Consumers in Europe and the UK and Germany in particular, are increasingly demanding sustainably sourced tuna. Demand from Asia for sustainable tuna is also growing,” said Mohamed Rasheed, deputy managing director of Maldivian tuna producer Horizon Fisheries. “This is why we have decided to apply for MSC certification. The Republic of Maldives is the only country in the world that does not allow any fishing methods other than pole and line and handline.”

Less than two weeks ago, the MSC rolled out a redesigned eco-label. And on 10 July, the nonprofit reached a milestone when the Pelagic Freezer-Trawler Association’s North East Atlantic mackerel harvest became the 50th fishery worldwide to earn MSC certification.

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