Author: Sharon Tomasic

REPORT: Global Tuna Fisheries & the MSC Standard: 6 Stocks Earn Passing MSC P1 Score; Most RFMOs Score Well on P3

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17 Tuna Stocks Not Meeting Criteria for Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Sustainability Standard

Updated report reveals that six stocks achieve passing scores on MSC Principle 1, and most tuna RFMOs score well on MSC Principle 3

Fisheries scientists in ISSF 2022-03: An Evaluation of the Sustainability of Global Tuna Stocks Relative to Marine Stewardship Council Criteria — a January 2022 report commissioned by the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) — found that six out of 23 major commercial tuna stocks worldwide are successfully avoiding overfishing and maintaining target stock biomass levels when measured against the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Fisheries Standard.

These stocks include North Atlantic albacore, South Atlantic albacore, Eastern Atlantic bluefin, Western Pacific skipjack, Eastern Pacific yellowfin, and Indian Ocean skipjack, all of which earned a passing score for the MSC Fisheries Standard on its Principle 1: “Sustainable Fish Stocks.” Under Principle 3: “Effective Management,” most tuna regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) scored well.

MSC is an independent, international, non-profit organization that oversees a program to assess global wild-capture fisheries and certify them as “sustainable” if they meet its Fisheries Standard criteria. In the February 2021 edition of the report, 7 stocks passed Principle 1. In this year’s report, one less stock received a passing score, specifically South Pacific albacore. Principle 3 evaluations remained unchanged for the most part.

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Featured Graphics

An updated graphic, based on data from the report, shows what the average scores based on Principle 1 have been since 2013, and how they have changed over time.

The MSC’s Principle 1 states: “A fishery must be conducted in a manner that does not lead to overfishing or depletion of the exploited populations and, for those populations that are depleted, the fishery must be conducted in a manner that demonstrably leads to their recovery.”

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A second graphic has been updated to show what the average scores for each tuna RFMO based on Principle 3 have been from December 2013–January 2022.

The MSC’s Principle 3 states: “The fishery is subject to an effective management system that respects local, national and international laws and standards and incorporates institutional and operational frameworks that require use of the resource to be responsible and sustainable.”

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ISSF in the News

Op-ed: 2022 could be a banner year for sustainable tuna fisheries

SeafoodSource 

What are the best sources of research on the migratory patterns of bigeye and yellowfin tuna? 

Planet Tuna

ISSF Report: 17 Tuna Stocks Not Meeting Criteria for Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Sustainability Standard

Fisheries scientists in ISSF 2022-03: An Evaluation of the Sustainability of Global Tuna Stocks Relative to Marine Stewardship Council Criteria — a January 2022 report commissioned by the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) — found that six out of 23 major commercial tuna stocks worldwide are successfully avoiding overfishing and maintaining target stock biomass levels when measured against the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Fisheries Standard.

These stocks include North Atlantic albacore, South Atlantic albacore, Eastern Atlantic bluefin, Western Pacific skipjack, Eastern Pacific yellowfin, and Indian Ocean skipjack, all of which earned a passing score for the MSC Fisheries Standard on its Principle 1: “Sustainable Fish Stocks.” Under Principle 3: “Effective Management,” most tuna regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) scored well.

17 #tuna stocks failed @MSCecolabel Principle 1 -- because of poor stock status, lack of well-defined harvest control rules (HCRs), and/or lack of effective tools to control harvest. Click To Tweet

MSC is an independent, international, non-profit organization that oversees a program to assess global wild-capture fisheries and certify them as “sustainable” if they meet its Fisheries Standard criteria. In the February 2021 edition of the report, 7 stocks passed Principle 1. In this year’s report, one less stock received a passing score, specifically South Pacific albacore. Principle 3 evaluations remained unchanged for the most part.

The report attributes 17 other tuna stocks’ inability to pass MSC Principle 1 to poor stock status, the lack of well-defined harvest control rules (HCRs), and/or the lack of effective tools to control harvest. A stock will pass if its overall score is 80 or above and no single score is less than 60.

About the Report

An Evaluation of the Sustainability of Global Tuna Stocks Relative to Marine Stewardship Council Criteria takes a consistent, comprehensive approach to scoring tuna stocks based on certain components of the MSC standard. The report — updated regularly since it was first published in 2013, and organized by individual tuna stock and tuna RFMO — is designed to:

  • Provide a basis for comparing between stock scores and tuna RFMO scores as assessed by the same experts
  • Become a useful source document for future tuna certifications or in the establishment of tuna Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs)
  • Prioritize ISSF projects and advocacy efforts against initiatives that will improve low-performance indicator scores

The scores in the report focus on stock status (MSC Principle 1) and the international management aspects relevant to RFMOs (part of MSC Principle 3) and are based on publicly available fishery and RFMO data. Each of these Principles is evaluated in relationship to Performance Indicators (PIs) within each Principle. The Evaluation report also includes detailed remarks on each stock, evaluations of the five RFMOs, and comprehensive reference citations.

MSC Principle 1

The MSC Principle 1 states: “A fishery must be conducted in a manner that does not lead to overfishing or depletion of the exploited populations and, for those populations that are depleted, the fishery must be conducted in a manner that demonstrably leads to their recovery.” The authors attribute stocks with failing scores to poor status of the stock, the lack of well-defined harvest control rules in place, and/or the lack of effective tools to control harvest. Three of the 23 stocks have fully implemented well-defined harvest control rules, and there has been progress towards this aim by all RFMOs.

Regarding stocks receiving passing scores:

  • Among nine tuna stocks in the Atlantic Ocean, three received an overall principle-level passing score: Northern albacore, Southern albacore, and Eastern bluefin (the only bluefin stock to receive a passing score).
  • Among nine tuna stocks in the Pacific Ocean, two received overall principle-level passing scores: Western skipjack, and Eastern yellowfin.
  • Among four stocks in the Indian Ocean, one received an overall principle-level passing score: skipjack.

Regarding stocks receiving failing scores:

  • In the Atlantic, yellowfin, bigeye, Western skipjack, Eastern skipjack, Western bluefin, and Mediterranean albacore all received principle-level failing scores.
  • In the Pacific, seven stocks received overall principle-level failing scores: Western yellowfin, Western bigeye, Eastern bigeye, Eastern skipjack, Northern albacore, Southern albacore, and Pacific bluefin.
  • In the Indian Ocean, yellowfin, bigeye, and albacore all received overall principle-level failing scores.
  • Southern bluefin tuna also received an overall P1 failing score.

MSC Principle 3

The MSC Principle 3 states: “The fishery is subject to an effective management system that respects local, national, and international laws and standards and incorporates institutional and operational frameworks that require use of the resource to be responsible and sustainable.”

One tuna RFMO — the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) — received unconditional passing scores for all seven performance indicators under Principle 3. The other three tropical tuna RFMOs (ICCAT, IOTC and WCPFC) received overall principle-level passing scores from the authors. As in the last report, CCSBT did not receive a passing score under Principle 3.

While the report focuses on tuna stock status and sustainability as well as on RFMO policies, it does not address national or bilateral management systems, or gear- or fleet-specific ecosystem impacts — all of which are also considered within the MSC assessment methodology.

Since 2011, ISSF has been an active stakeholder in MSC tuna fishery assessments and certifications. ISSF’s strategic objective is to develop and implement verifiable, science-based practices, commitments, and international management measures to help all tuna fisheries become capable of meeting the MSC certification standard without conditions.

An Evaluation of the Sustainability of Global Tuna Stocks Relative to Marine Stewardship Council Criteria – Version 9.0 was authored by Paul A. H. Medley, Jo Gascoigne, and Giuseppe Scarcella.

RESOURCE ROUNDUP: Public Vessel Lists & Transparency in Tuna Fishing

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ISSF’s Public Vessel Lists

The ProActive Vessel Register (PVR) is one of four public vessel lists that ISSF provides to foster transparency in tuna fishing. Vessels that join the PVR commit to provide regular, accurate information about specific activities. This information is displayed publicly in the PVR, which shows facts about each vessel, and based on independent audit results, if the vessel is following best practices for sustainable fishing, such as having a shark-finning prohibition policy and using non-entangling FADs.

View the PVR

 

ISSF developed “Vessels in Other Sustainability Initiatives (VOSI)” as a first-of-its-kind searchable, online list of vessels worldwide that are fishing in a Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)-certified tuna fishery and/or participating in a tuna Fishery Improvement Project (FIP). 

“Fishing vessels are on the front lines of our collective work toward sustainable fisheries,” said ISSF President Susan Jackson. “Our newest vessel list, which requires participating vessels to go through a third-party auditing process, offers more verified transparency when it comes to FIPs and vessels in MSC-certified fisheries. Giving the public more information via the VOSI helps to recognize those vessels that are part of the sustainability solution.”

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In addition to the PVR and VOSI, ISSF offers two other public, global, and searchable vessel lists: the Record of Large-Scale Purse Seine Vessels (LSPSR) and Tuna Vessel IMOs and Other UVI Numbers (IMO/UVI)

Learn more

 

Featured Graphics

PVR Growth by Vessel Type

An infographic shows how the PVR has grown from its inception in 2012 through 2021, both in number and type of vessel (handline, longline, pole & line, purse seine, supply & tender).

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Snapshot of the Large-Scale Purse-Seine Fleet

An infographic shows the size and fishing capacity of the large-scale purse-seine fleet fishing for tropical tunas worldwide, based on ISSF research. It indicates how the PVR helps to provide transparency of the fleet’s fishing activities, including changes in fish hold volume.

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ICYMI: Latest ISSF Conservation Measures & Commitments Report Shows 100% Conformance

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ISSF Participating Companies Achieve Full Compliance with 30 Science-Based ISSF Conservation Measures

ISSF released its sixth annual Update to ISSF Conservation Measures & Commitments Compliance Report in November 2021, and it shows a conformance rate of 100 percent by ISSF participating companies with all 30 ISSF conservation measures in effect. Following the remediation period, all companies were fully compliant with all 30 measures audited. 

As part of its commitment to foster transparency and accountability in the fishing industry, ISSF engages third-party auditor MRAG Americas to assess ISSF participating seafood companies’ compliance with ISSF conservation measures according to a rigorous audit protocol.

“Since we began our compliance and audit process for ISSF participating companies in 2015, we’ve seen the conformance rate improve nearly every year,” said ISSF President Susan Jackson. “We are especially proud to see consistently strong compliance from these seafood companies even as we have continued to expand our conservation measures — from 21 initially to 30 today — and raise the bar for them to reach.” 

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Our Audit Process

As part of their commitment to improve the sustainability of tuna fisheries, ISSF participating companies agree to be audited annually on their conformance with ISSF conservation measures.

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Aggregate Company Compliance Over Time

Our “Change Over Time” graphic tracks the percentage of ISSF participating companies that are in conformance, minor non-conformance, or major non-conformance with ISSF conservation measures. This graphic tracks compliance based on data published in the Conservation Measures & Commitments Compliance Reports.

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ISSF in the News

122 Organizations Transforming Food Systems in 2022
Foodtank 

Area-based management of blue water fisheries: Current knowledge and research needs
Fish and Fisheries

Multiple Pacific tuna fisheries face certification loss by 2023, MSC warns
Undercurrent News

The Year in Tuna Fisheries Management; 2021 RFMO Outcomes

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Reviewing RFMO Outcomes in 2021 

At the start of the year, ISSF President Susan Jackson issued a call-to-action to the world’s tuna regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs): 

“RFMOs, tuna managers, scientists, and other stakeholders begin 2021 with almost one year of virtual information-sharing and decision-making experience under our belts. We can meet virtually without settling for minimum action — and stalling sustainability progress. In 2021, RFMOs must do better.” 

How did RFMOs answer this appeal — one shared by many global stakeholders? Here we present a roundup of ISSF responses to the year’s meetings, including a special session the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) held this month.
   

Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC)
Pacific Ocean Fisheries Managers Take Important Steps on FAD Management, But Delay Needed Action on Harvest Strategies to 2022
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International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT)
ISSF Assesses ICCAT Annual Meeting: Extended Tropical Tuna Measure and Progress on Electronic Monitoring Among Positive Meeting Outcomes 
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Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC)
Progress for Eastern Pacific Ocean Tuna Fisheries: Protections, Monitoring for Tuna Stocks and Improved FAD Management 
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Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC)
Minimal Progress for the Protection of Indian Ocean Tuna Stocks
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Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC)
FAD Management for Indian Ocean Tuna Fisheries; ISSF Response to IOTC Session

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Mixed Results at WCPFC

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Pacific Ocean fisheries managers take important steps on FAD management, but delay needed action on harvest strategies to 2022                          

The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) recently wrapped up a longer-than-usual annual meeting — one with important stakes for tuna stocks in the region. Prior to the gathering, ISSF issued a position statement outlining our organization’s top priorities for the Commission in 2021. Here is a summary of both the hits and the misses at the conclusion of the meeting. 

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Featured Reports

From Minimum Standards for Inspector Training to Advance Notice of Port Entry, Report Identifies IUU-Mitigation Gaps and Opportunities

ISSF’s report ISSF 2021-09: Port State Measures in Tuna RFMOs: Benchmarking RFMO Port State Measures Against the 2009 FAO PSMA and Identifying Gaps evaluates how well the port-State measures established by tuna regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) follow an overarching international standard enacted to deter illegal, unreported, and unreported (IUU) fishing.

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Tuna RFMO Compliance Assessment Processes: A Comparative Analysis to Identify Best Practices

Each tuna regional fisheries management organization (RFMO) has an annual mechanism to monitor and assess the compliance of members, and in some cases cooperating non-members (CNMs), with their obligations under the RFMO convention and its conservation and management measures.

This technical report — updated in April 2021 — examines each of these tuna RFMO compliance mechanisms with respect to the range of obligations and commitments that are assessed, the current operational conditions of each compliance assessment process, what tools are available to respond to instances of non-compliance, and the public availability of information about the level of compliance of RFMO members or CNMs and their actions to address areas of identified non-compliance.

Read the report

ISSF in the News

Area-based management of blue water fisheries: Current knowledge and research needs
Fish and Fisheries

IOTC fails to resolve vote dispute, again
Seafood Source

FAD Management for Indian Ocean Tuna Fisheries; ISSF Response to IOTC Session

Featured News

ISSF Disappointed by Lack of Agreement on FAD Management at Indian Ocean Tuna Commission

“We are disappointed that IOTC could not agree on revisions to improve its FAD management resolution this year, delaying progress on this critical issue until the 2022 Commission meeting,” said ISSF President Susan Jackson. “ISSF recognizes the importance of voting procedures as a tool for the RFMO decision-making process. Still, we strongly encourage all IOTC members to engage in collaborative discussions in the lead up to the 2022 annual meeting.

“Only through such ongoing communication can IOTC reach an agreement to strengthen FAD management that will be supported and effectively implemented by all parties.”

Read the full statement  

 

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ICYMI: 87.7% of Global Tuna Catch Comes from Stocks at Healthy Levels

Of the total commercial tuna catch worldwide, 87.7% of the global catch comes from stocks at “healthy” levels of abundance, according to the latest International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) Status of the Stocks report. In addition, 9.6% of the total tuna catch came from overfished stocks, and 2.7% came from stocks at an intermediate level of abundance.

ISSF publishes its signature Status of the Stocks report twice each year using the most current scientific data on 23 major commercial tuna stocks. 

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ISSF in the News

ISSF’s Susan Jackson: Tuna stock-rebuilding efforts are working
Seafood Source

ISSF content with ICCAT outcomes, while Europeche left frustrated 
Undercurrent News

WCPFC faces test as expiration date nears for tropical tuna measure 
Seafood Source

ISSF tuna companies achieve full compliance with conservation measures
Undercurrent News

ISSF Disappointed by Lack of Agreement on FAD Management at Indian Ocean Tuna Commission

The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) recently concluded a special meeting to consider amending its resolution 19/02 on the management of fish aggregating devices (FADs) — a resolution that was not adopted at the IOTC annual meeting in June 2021 due to lack of clarity and irregularities in the voting procedures. 

In a position statement issued before the IOTC annual meeting, the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) called for: progress on science-based limits on FAD deployments and/or FAD sets; the development of FAD marking guidelines and FAD tracking and recovery policies; requiring the use of biodegradable materials in the construction of FADs, and establishing a timeline for transitioning to 100% biodegradable FADs.

Despite multiple opportunities to address the matter — first, at their annual meeting in June 2021 and again at a special meeting held November 29, 2021 — the Commission was unable to adopt amendments to strengthen its FAD management resolution.

“We are disappointed that IOTC could not agree on revisions to improve its FAD management resolution this year, delaying progress on this critical issue until the 2022 Commission meeting,” said ISSF President Susan Jackson. “ISSF recognizes the importance of voting procedures as a tool for the RFMO decision-making process. Still, we strongly encourage all IOTC members to engage in collaborative discussions in the lead up to the 2022 annual meeting.

“Only through such ongoing communication can IOTC reach an agreement to strengthen FAD management that will be supported and effectively implemented by all parties,” Jackson continued. “ISSF will continue to engage in advocacy on these and other Indian Ocean tuna sustainability priorities in the New Year.”