Papua New Guinea’s Fishing Industry Association receives MSC certification for purse-seine tuna fishery

The Papua New Guinea Fishing Industry Association’s purse-seine skipjack and yellowfin tuna fishery has received Marine Stewardship Council certification.

The fishery includes onshore processing plants in Papua New Guinea (PNG), supported by PNG-flagged vessels and locally-based foreign fishing vessels.

“This certification will open new markets for PNG-made products and expand on-shore processing and fishing of tuna, leading to new employment opportunities, foreign exchange earnings, and spin-off businesses,” Fishing Industry Association President Sylvester Pokajam said in a press release. “The PNG Fishing Industry Association now has in place a responsible sourcing policy which includes the marine litter and fishing gear (ghost) management practices, and labor onboard improvement (crew welfare, improving working conditions of crew onboard their fishing vessels).”

The certification covers 64 vessels targeting skipjack and yellowfin in both PNG’s exclusive economic zone and archipelagic waters. Of that total, 32 vessels are PNG-flagged and 32 vessels are Philippines-flagged, licensed as locally based foreign fishing vessels. The vessels use unassociated sets (free school), anchored fish aggregating device (FAD) sets, and drifting FAD sets, with sets on free schools accounting for 74 percent of all sets between 2013 and 2017, according to MSC. The EEZ free school components of the certification have been certified as part of the PNA Western and Central Pacific skipjack and yellowfin tuna purse-seine fishery, the organization said. Tuna caught by the fishery is landed in the PNG ports of Lae, Madang, Wewak and Rabaul, and in General Santos City, Philippines, for processing. The tuna is exported as loins and in cans to markets in Europe, Australia, and the United States.

The fishery was assessed by SCS Global Services, which found it met the 28 performance indicators required for MSC certification, including standards on sustainable fish stocks, bycatch, habitat impacts, and effective management. In its report, SCS noted the fishery’s high level of observer coverage, and praised its comprehensive monitoring control and surveillance (MCS) system, which includes a vessel monitoring system (VMS) and regular port inspections.

The MSC certification is contingent upon the adoption of harvest strategies, including harvest control rules, by all member states of the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) by 2021. While stock assessments for skipjack and yellowfin tuna in the Western Central Pacific Ocean show healthy skipjack and yellowfin populations, and that fishing is occurring at a sustainable rate, the mandate was included in the certification “in order to ensure that the fishery can respond to any future changes in the health of these tuna stocks,” according to MSC.

The MSC also placed additional conditions on its certification, including a requirement that the FIA show “greater evidence for the effective management of the impacts of fishing on whales and whale sharks, and of the impacts of lost and derelict fish aggregating devices (FADs); and improvements in the implementation of management arrangements at the domestic level.”

MSC Global Tuna Expert Bill Holden said the certification represented a major victory for the fishery and for the world’s tuna consumers.

“During a time of increasing demand for canned tuna, it’s vital that tuna can be traced back to a responsible fishery which has all the checks and balances in place needed to safeguard our oceans and seafood supplies for future generations,” Holden said. "Skipjack and yellowfin tuna caught by this fishery can now be sold with the MSC blue fish tick, giving consumers [of] that assurance. I congratulate everyone who worked to improve and demonstrate the sustainability of this fishery on this important achievement for Papua New Guinea.”

As previously reported by SeafoodSource, PNG’s push for its own MSC certification represents a rift between it and Pacifical, which was founded to market the tuna caught in the waters of the members of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement, of which PNG is a part.

Pokajam said the FIA was pushing for its own MSC certification to “enable PNG FIA members to manage and operate the domestic tuna industry.”

“The immediate benefits to PNG include improving the robustness of the PNG’s national governance framework, opening new markets for PNG made products, which will result in expansion of the domestic tuna industry production base, thereby effecting increased employment and foreign exchange receipts,” Pokajam said. “It will also, promote a global image for PNG as ‘clean green sustainable,’ while adding value to PNG as a country that promotes a well-managed fishery resource.”

National Fishery Authority Managing Director John Kasu said those goals were closer to being met now that MSC certification has been achieved.

“This certification recognizes Papua New Guinea’s commitment to the sustainable management of our tuna fisheries, and is the first step towards eventually pursuing MSC certification for other national fisheries such as the tuna longline yellowfin and albacore fishery, Gulf of Papua prawn fishery, mud crab fishery, Torres Strait and Western Province rock lobster fishery, and beche-de-mer,” Kasu said.

Photo courtesy of Fishing Industry Association


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