MSC sends fishery assessor back to the drawing board


Sean Murphy, SeafoodSource online editor

Published on
August 25, 2015

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has asked the independent assessor of a tuna fishery in the Indian Ocean seeking sustainability certification to review its assessment, in light of objections from NGOs.

Eldon Greenberg, the independent adjudicator deciding whether the MSC should grant certification to the Echebastar tuna fishery, has asked Acoura, the assessment body, to revisit its recommendations that the fishery be certified.

“The Acoura team responsible for assessing the fishery to the MSC Fisheries Standard, and recommending its certification, will now have until 8 September 2015 to consider and respond to the points raised by the independent adjudicator,” MSC said in a statement.

The move comes after a 31 July meeting where representatives of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the International Pole and Line Foundation met to object to the fishery’s certification. The fishery, the groups argued, will be operating in waters that until only recently were occupied by Somali pirates. As such, it has been impossible, they say, for scientists to conduct accurate stock assessments, making it too soon to declare any tuna fishery in the region sustainable.

“WWF’s main concern was the lack of any formal controls or tools to limit or otherwise manage the exploitation of tuna in the Indian Ocean,” WWF said in a statement. “The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission, which is responsible for managing the region's tuna and tuna-like species, along with WWF and other parties, are currently working hard to introduce these management controls, but they are not yet in place.”

Wetjens Dimmlich, Indian Ocean tuna program manager for WWF, praised the MSC’s decision, and at the same time insisted WWF’s problem was with Acoura, not the fishery.

“This decision against the Acoura assessment should not reflect negatively on the fishery itself,” Dimmlich said. “WWF recognizes the efforts made by Echebastar toward sustainable fishing practices. We would welcome the opportunity to work with this leading Spanish company to achieve a legitimate certification of its fisheries as soon as possible.”

Once Acoura issues a response to the MSC’s decision, the NGOs will once again have a chance to object by 15 September.

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