Only five out of 19 major commercial tuna stocks are being managed to avoid overfishing and restore depleted fish populations — and have earned a passing score for Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Principle 1 — according to independent scientists in a report published by the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF).
ISSF 2019-02: An Evaluation of the Sustainability of Global Tuna Stocks Relative to Marine Stewardship Council Criteria attributes this failure to poor stock status, the lack of well-defined harvest control rules (HCRs), and the lack of effective tools to control harvest. Only three of the stocks have well-defined harvest control rules from Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs), which continue progressing slowly in this area.Only 5 of 19 commercial #tuna stocks receive a passing score on @MSCecolabel Principle 1 (stock status). Click To Tweet
The January 2018 version of the report had found that six out of 19 stocks were being managed to avoid overfishing, meaning the situation has not improved in the last year. While South Pacific albacore Principle 1 score has improved thanks to further progress by WCPFC on this stock’s harvest strategy workplan, two other stocks have seen their overall Principle 1 scores worsen: eastern Pacific bigeye due mostly to uncertainties in its latest stock assessment, and Atlantic yellowfin tuna due to weak tools in place to control exploitation that may be hindering its rebuilding plan.
An Evaluation of the Sustainability of Global Tuna Stocks takes a consistent, comprehensive approach to scoring tuna stocks against certain components of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard. The MSC is a global certification program for fisheries.
The report — updated four times since first published in 2013, and organized by individual tuna stock and tuna RFMO — is designed to:
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 four RFMOs, and comprehensive reference citations.
The report does not address bluefin tuna stocks.
The MSC Principle 1 states: “A fishery must operate 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.”
Regarding stocks receiving passing scores:
Regarding stocks receiving failing scores:
See a graphic showing MSC Principle 1 averages from February 2013-January 2019.
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.”
See a graphic showing MSC Principle 3 averages from December 2013-January 2019.
While the report focuses on tuna stock status and sustainability as well as on RFMO policies, it does not address national or bilateral fishing jurisdictions, gear- or fleet-specific ecosystem impacts, or specific fisheries’ ecosystems — 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.