Tuna industry group questions MSC standards for FADs

Published on
September 14, 2016

A scholarly article published this month in the scientific journal Marine Policy is calling into question the Marine Stewardship Council policies on fish-aggregating devices (FADs) used in several of its certified tuna fisheries.

The study’s authors, Guillermo Moreno, Miguel Herrera and Julio Morón, who are affiliated with the Producers’ Association of Large Tuna Freezers (OPAGAC), a Spanish industry organization, question the MSC’s sanctioning of tuna purse seiners who catch both MSC-certified tuna in free schools and non-certified tuna caught with the aid of FADs. MSC allows this practice so long as the individual catches remain separated after being caught.

“OPAGAC considers that the industrial tuna purse seine fishing fleet should be certified holistically and not on artificially construed components of the fishery. Currently, all industrial purse seiners depend on drifting fish aggregating devices (dFADs) for a significant part of their catches,” the organization said in a press release. “OPAGAC argues that the certification of FAD-free fish is misleading as the largest proportion of the catch of any vessel comes from fishing operations that are associated to dFADs.”

MSC’s main criterion used to separate the two types of schools, namely the distance to a floating object, has not been applied consistently by MSC’s conformity assessment bodies, and there are serious doubts that even if it were applied consistently the level of certainty to differentiate FAD-free from FAD-associated schools could not stand up to scientific scrutiny, one of the study’s authors and OPAGAC Manager Julio Morón said.

“By certifying part of the catch, MSC encourages the misuse of dFADs and does not help to address the issues surrounding their use,” Morón said. If MSC wants to improve sustainability of tuna purse seining, all school detections systems (dFADs, anchored FADs, free schools, natural logs and other types of associations) should be included on the certification, as OPAGAC is doing on its Global Tuna FIP with WWF.”

The MSC must more clearly demonstrate how FAD-free can be clearly identified from FAD-associated catches, given that the division between drifting-FAD and free-school fish “is not scientifically robust and can be misconstrued to get certification where it is not warranted,” OPAGAC said.

“The contradiction of the MSC approach on certifying part of the catch of a vessel or fleet begs the question of whether it is possible to fish sustainably and unsustainably at the same time on board the same vessel, and whether MSC is willing to ignore the obvious implications to the credibility of its standard if it allows this to continue,” it said.

MSC did not immediately respond to a request for response when contacted on Monday, 13 September by SeafoodSource.

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