MSC letter: FAD policy for tuna purse seine fleet makes sense

Published on
September 16, 2016

Following the publication of the SeafoodSource article, “Tuna industry group questions MSC standards for FADs," the Marine Stewardship Council emailed a letter to SeafoodSource addressing claims made by the Producers’ Association of Large Tuna Freezers (OPAGAC) in the article. MSC’s letter is published in full below. SeafoodSource has reached out to MSC with additional questions regarding its policies concerning fish-aggregating devices and is awaiting response.

The MSC program provides a mechanism for demonstrating best practice and showcasing innovation and world-class management. It also drives change and improvement, where needed. MSC data show that over the course of their certification, 94 percent of certified fisheries are required to make at least one improvement to strengthen or further monitor the sustainability of their operations in order to maintain their certificate. By end of 2015, 281 fisheries had made 876 improvements, with many more being developed. MSC’s Global Impacts Report series details the real difference MSC certification can make: from more abundant and stable fish stocks, to minimising bycatch and habitat impacts, to building stronger, science-based management.

The MSC seeks to incentivise the use of responsible fishing techniques – by allowing the separation of tuna caught using drifting FADs, anchored FADs and free school fishing methods, we aim to incentivise a preference towards more sustainable techniques through market preference to MSC certified catch.

In the case of tuna fisheries where only part of the catch is seeking MSC certification, the relevant fisheries and processors must be certified to the MSC Chain of Custody (CoC) Standard requiring that they keep MSC certified catch separate and clearly labeled from non-certified catch.

We are very aware of the risks associated with one vessel catching both certified and non-certified catch and are working with certifiers to ensure that the MSC CoC requirements are effective and adhered to. Notably,

• MSC certified tuna must be kept separate from non-certified catch. This may involve storing and holding it in different containers, or separating it in the hold using nets.
• The weight of certified catch is recorded along the supply chain to ensure that no substitution takes place.
• MSC certified tuna fisheries may require on board observers to verify that only tuna caught using certified fishing methods can be sold as MSC certified. Observer coverage is often submitted as evidence that adequate systems are in place to assure compliance with our standard, and in some cases observers may be required by Regional Fisheries Management Organisations.

As [an] example, the MSC certified PNA tuna fishery has developed a sophisticated traceability system to ensure effective segregation and identification of their certified tuna catch from non-certified. It starts at sea with specially-trained observers who confirm that an individual purse seine set captured only free school tuna, and that no aggregating elements (FADs, logs, vessels or whale sharks) contaminated the set. Free-school catches are then stored in sealed wells, and traceability is required in all stages of the transfer from catch, through transhipment to carrier vessels to landing at tuna canning factories. Shipments are checked on landing to ensure that segregation and traceability has been maintained, and cross checks are made using data collected at the point of capture by observers and catch composition data sampled on landing. Only shipments that meet PNA’s rigorous testing and checking procedures are confirmed as coming from free school catches and can pass into the supply chain as MSC certified.

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