MSC warns WCPO tuna fisheries of potential certification suspension

Published on
July 28, 2021

The Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) is warning that its certification of 22 tuna fisheries in the Western Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) could be suspended if regional fisheries management organizations fail to act on measures to keep the fisheries harvested at sustainable levels.

According to an MSC press release, the tuna fisheries are facing suspension if there is no agreement to update management measures by June 2023. Losing the certification means the fisheries would also lose the MSC blue eco-label placed on their products sold at retail.

“These fisheries were certified with a time-bound requirement that fishing nations agree on measures to ensure the long-term sustainability of shared tuna stocks through the development of harvest strategies and control rules. This agreement is yet to materialize,” the statement added.

Seventy-three percent of the world's MSC-certified tuna comes from the WCPO region, and the fisheries losing the certification will “undermine years of progress towards sustainable tuna fishing," the MSC said. “Responsible management is the key to sustainable fishing, and for complex fisheries like tuna, effective harvest strategies and harvest control rules play an essential role in making sure enough fish are left in the sea for them to replenish. If tuna from the Western Central Pacific Ocean is to be fished sustainably in the long term, members of the regional management agency must agree to secure these vital stock protections without delay,” MSC Chief Program Officer Nicolas Guichoux said.

Guichoux said a failure to reach an agreement would be a blow to the world's tuna fisheries.

“MSC-certified tuna fisheries in the WCPO are world leaders in sustainable tuna harvesting and serve as an important example of best practice to other fisheries across the globe,” Guichoux said. “If an agreement on harvest control rules cannot be reached by the WCPFC, then it could also send a negative signal to others striving to achieve sustainability.”

MSC said to be able to retain certification, harvest strategies and harvest control rules must be put in place, saying they are key to ensuring healthy tuna stocks. MSC said the 26 member-states of the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Committee (WCPFC) must agree to the measures. The WCPFC has until December 2022 to conclude negotiations, with interim progress needed at its next annual meeting in December 2021. 

“Failure to do so could see all 22 certified tuna fisheries in the region, as well as an additional five currently seeking MSC certification, having their certificates suspended by independent assessors in June 2023,” MSC said.   

Photo courtesy of the Marine Stewardship Council

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