Mexican tuna fishery certified by MSC over WWF objections

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has certified yellowfin and skipjack tuna caught by a Mexico-based fleet of 36 purse-seining tuna vessels as sustainable over objections from environmental nonprofit WWF.

The Pacific Alliance for Sustainable Tuna (PAST), the group achieving certification, is comprised of vessels owned by four leaders in the Mexican tuna industry – Grupomar, Herdez del Fuerte, Pesca Azteca, and Procesa. 

"Nearly 30 years of actions to minimize impacts on the oceans by the Northeastern Tropical Pacific purse seine yellowfin and skipjack tuna fishery have been recognized through the MSC assessment process. PAST’s bold actions to address tough environmental challenges have been transformative,” MSC’s Regional Director for the Americas Brian Perkins said. “We believe this is the kind of progress that MSC was designed to inspire.”

PAST’s application for certification was opposed by WWF over concerns that impacts of the fishery on dolphin populations, which were depleted by previous tuna fishing in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, “have not been sufficiently examined and addressed.”

“In the waters of the Eastern Pacific, one technique used for decades to catch tuna involves targeting schools of tuna associated with dolphins, contributing to high dolphin mortality. Despite reductions in the number of dolphins killed by this practice, it is yet unknown whether populations have recovered from dramatic declines that began in the late 1950s and continued though the early 1990s,” WWF said in a press release.

WWF filed a formal objection to the MSC assessment in October 2016 and, despite the fishery’s newly granted certification, the organization “recommends that seafood buyers should not consider this fishery as sustainable.”

“This is a deeply troubling outcome that we believe shows that the MSC standard is not consistently being adhered to by certifiers and that the objections procedure provides insufficient opportunity for consideration of the scientific basis for certifiers’ conclusions,” WWF Seafood Officer Franck Hollander said in the release.

In its own press release announcing the fishery’s certification, MSC said the companies involved in the fishery had made progress in reducing dolphin mortalities and instituting protections for marine mammals.

“PAST has committed to a comprehensive sustainability action plan, which includes: further dolphin protection measures including investments in regular net alignment practices as a means to reduce the risk of dolphins becoming entangled, and other training in best practices across the fleet; significant financial investment in an international research program to assess dolphin populations in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean; zero retention and maximum live release program for all sharks and rays; and active stakeholder engagement in building more transparency in fisheries across Mexico,” MSC said.

In addition, the fishery adheres to the Agreement on International Dolphin Conservation Program (AIDCP), which requires all of PAST’s fishing vessels have an independent observer on board during fishing trips. PAST also agreed to a seven-year halt to its fishing for Pacific bluefin tuna, a species that MSC said is overfished.

“Our members – Grupomar, Herdez del Fuerte, Pesca Azteca, and Procesa – are driven by sustainability and dedicated to providing ocean-safe tuna to their customers and to continuing to make a difference for oceans,” Executive Director of the Pacific Alliance for Sustainable Tuna Mariana Ramos said. “he MSC certification is one more way we can demonstrate to our customers that our tuna is fished in a highly sustainable manner.” 

More than 30,000 jobs are tied both directly and indirectly to the fishery and it accounts for USD 750 million (EUR 623 million) in productivity to the Mexican economy, MSC said in its release.


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