Pew: Atlantic bluefin not ready for MSC certification

Published on
August 30, 2018

The Pew Charitable Trusts has come out in opposition to a Japanese company’s attempt to get its Atlantic bluefin tuna longline fishery certified by the Marine Stewardship Council.

Last week, the council announced Usufuku Honten Co. Ltd. began the assessment process for the voluntary certification. It marked the first bluefin fishery to be assessed. Control Union Pesca Ltd. will perform the independent review, focusing on the Dai-ichi Shofuku-maru. The ship, which stays in the Atlantic Ocean all year, catches bluefin in October and November annually. 

MSC certification is being sought because its process is designed to acknowledge fisheries that meet sustainable fishing management standards, Usufuku Honten said. The council, founded in 1997, has certified 296 fisheries located in 35 countries through its first 20 years of existence. That represents about one-eighth of the worldwide marine harvest. More than 38,000 groceries, restaurants, hotels, and other sites have also been certified to see the more than 25,000 products that come adorned with MSC’s blue label.

For years, conservation groups have been critical of the Atlantic bluefin tuna fishery, claiming the stock is in a perilous state. Many of those organizations panned a decision in 2017 by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas to increase the catch limits for eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin through the year 2020.

Grantly Galland, a Pew Charitable Trust officer on global tuna conservation, said Atlantic bluefin fisheries aren’t ready yet to become certified. He noted that just a few years ago, an international trade ban was being discussed as a last-ditch effort to preserve the fish. 

“There are too many concerns about the health of the population, the effectiveness of the current catch limits, and the prevalence of illegal fishing,” he said. “These issues must be addressed before any decision is made to put a stamp of approval on these fisheries.”

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