ISSF aims for full MSC certification from participating companies

A Spanish tuna fishing vessel.

The newest strategic plan from the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) is keeping Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification as a central tenant as the organization advocates for more sustainable wild-caught seafood. 

The ISSF Strategic Plan for 2023-2027, "Continuously Improving Global Tuna Fishery Sustainability," was released 28 February, 2023. The plan highlights ISSF research, advocacy, and its approach to achieving tuna fishery sustainability in participating companies for the next five years, including full implementation of a plan for MSC certification.

The new strategic plan evolves the previous plan to achieve tuna fishery sustainability by tuning in to the current sustainability landscape. Developed with a multi-stakeholder approach, MSC certification remains central to the plan, as the five-year goal is to have all participating companies sourcing from tuna fisheries that meet and maintain the MSC certification standard or have a clear timeline to meet the standard by 2027, according to ISSF President Susan Jackson. 

“The new plan helps us build on our successes to-date – like gains in transparency and accountability in tuna fisheries, as well as sustainable fishing innovations – while also tuning into today’s sustainability landscape,” ISSF President Susan Jackson said. “We’re still rooted in the core pillars of science, verification, and influence, which together catalyze more-sustainable fisheries management. But we’re newly outlining our theory of change and a five-year goal – both of which emphasize the theme of continuous improvement. The Marine Stewardship Council fisheries standard remains central to ISSF’s objective.”

Estimates expect the global tuna market will reach a value of USD 50.2 billion (EUR 47.4 billion) by 2028, with almost 60 percent of the total tuna catch currently sourced from the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. According to the 2023 ISSF Status of the Stocks, 11 percent of the global tuna catch is from overfished stocks. 

Tuna management is challenged by the migratory status of the species, which can travel across large areas of ocean.

“One of the biggest challenges for ISSF is the biggest challenge for sustainable tuna management in general – that is, the nature of the tuna species. Tuna swim across entire ocean basins, which means management of tuna requires many countries to not only agree on what's necessary for their management, but to also implement and enforce those agreements,” Jackson said. 

The current process for sustainable tuna management is through regional fishery management organizations (RFMOs). The five major tuna RFMOs responsible for 91 percent of the world’s oceans set fishing limits on stocks and protective measures for the long-term health of those stocks. The latest strategic plan continues ISSF's work to advocate to RFMOs for better management of tuna stocks.

“Through its strategic plan, ISSF and its work can help increase the political will needed for parties to align to those agreements, as well as help credibly demonstrate how those measures are being implemented. It can be a long road. Political will, unfortunately, comes slowly and it takes the work of many,” Jackson said.

Also in the strategic plan, for the first time, the ISSF has publicly articulated its ...

Photo courtesy of OPAGAC

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