Q&A: Sustainable tuna is reachable

By

Neil Ray, SeafoodSource contributing editor, reporting from Bangkok

Published on
January 31, 2010

Susan Jackson is the founding president of the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF), a non-profit, non-governmental organization established in 2008 to help the industry undertake science-based initiatives to sustain tuna populations and their ecosystems. Prior to joining ISSF, Jackson was the VP of government and industry relations and seafood sourcing for Del Monte Foods, which owned the StarKist tuna brand.

Following Late January’s Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI) Business Summit, Jackson, a key speaker at the two-day event, talked to SeafoodSource about the challenge of sustaining tuna populations worldwide. Mike Crispino, ISSF’s media communications manager, also chimes in.

Ray: Your background is in the seafood industry. What made you want to take on the role of ISSF president?
Jackson: ISSF is an unprecedented organization and offered new and interesting challenges. I started my career as a lawyer, so that background, combined with my experience in the seafood business, provided a good starting point for this.

Were you encouraged by what you heard at the CTI Business Summit?
The participation and turnout were most encouraging. The Coral Triangle needs sustainable business practices in order to preserve the region’s rich marine resources, which a large number of people depend on. As with any tuna stock, in any region of the world, it will take government, industry and environmental groups working together to conserve and protect these resources.

The response from industry was encouraging, especially from the tuna industry. Was this expected?
I can tell you that many good actors in industry care deeply about sustainable practices. Our organization is proof of that. ISSF is committed to helping Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) and scientists in every tuna fishery work toward creating truly sustainable stocks that are fished responsibly with the health of the entire marine ecosystem taken into account. Companies that participate in ISSF share this commitment.

In your presentation, you referred to difficulties in areas such as illegal, unregulated, unreported (IUU) fishing and the problems RFMOs are facing. Are you optimistic that countries will be able to crack down on IUU fishing?
I’m optimistic we’ll see change in the coming years, and it’s absolutely necessary. Many vessels are doing the right thing and following the rules. What ISSF would like to see in tuna fisheries is increased enforcement — that’s RFMOs and countries holding bad actors accountable for breaking the rules.

In looking at Indian Ocean data, the comparison between the number of the registered fishing vessels and blacklisted illegal vessels was massive. In one case, there were some 1,100 vessels registered and three named as IUU vessels. Will it be almost impossible to prevent IUU fishing?
Jackson: It’s not impossible, and there are ways to enhance the effectiveness of IUU lists. In some cases it takes a year from the time a violation is reported for it to be considered by an RFMO compliance committee. That process needs to be tightened up and shortened for IUU lists to be most effective.

Crispino: ISSF would also like to see RFMOs work toward creating and maintaining one comprehensive list of IUU vessels. If a vessel is blacklisted in one region it should be blacklisted in all. ISSF participating companies follow this principle and agree to refrain from transactions with any vessel on any RFMO blacklist.

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