WWF objects to MSC certification proposal for Indian Ocean tuna fishery

Posted on 22 February 2018

WWF has lodged a formal objection with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) over the proposed certification of a tuna fishery in the Indian Ocean.
Gland, Switzerland, 22 February 2018 – WWF has lodged a formal objection with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) over the proposed certification of a tuna fishery in the Indian Ocean. WWF contends that the fishery, known as the Echebastar Indian Ocean skipjack purse seine fishery, does not meet the environmental standard prescribed by the MSC and therefore should not be awarded MSC certification.

Andrew Russell, Sustainability Specialist-Seafood & Fisheries, WWF, said, “As the pressures on our oceans increase, WWF strongly encourages fishing interests to strive for higher environmental performance in their fishing operations. However, in this case, we believe the Echebastar Indian Ocean purse seine fishery does not reach the Marine Stewardship Council’s standard.”

WWF’s objection was based on several considerations, including the overfished status of yellowfin tuna in the Indian Ocean, and the lack of overall harvest control measures for yellowfin, which is a significant bycatch species in this fishery.

In addition, WWF contends that the fishery is not using the best available practices for fish aggregating device (FAD) management including a credible, written and audited FAD management plan.  The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) does not collect sufficient FAD data and has not adopted a FAD management plan covering this fishery.

Importantly, WWF argues that there is no strategy in place to address the bycatch of silky sharks or the impact of the fishery on other endangered, threatened or protected species. WWF also believes that the monitoring, control and surveillance system in the fishery does not meet necessary standards.

“Some of the issues that WWF cites in the objection are not directly in the hands of the Echebastar fishery, but are subject instead to effective agreements at the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission. We believe that a number of the tuna stocks in the Indian Ocean - and threatened species impacted by the fishery - are under severe pressure, and urgent Indian Ocean-wide action is needed to enable their recovery.”

“WWF encourages fishing interests like Echebastar to use their influence to insist that the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission fulfils its obligations to effectively manage this fishery. We urge them to help address urgent matters like the effective implementation of harvest control measures for yellowfin tuna and reducing the impacts of FADs on sharks and threatened species. This should be a matter of priority for ensuring a healthy, thriving Indian Ocean.”
WWF only lodges objections after careful analysis and does so to ensure that the rigour of the MSC scheme is maintained or improved. Prior to seeking certification, WWF encourages the Echebastar Indian Ocean skipjack tuna fishery to first undertake a fishery improvement project in order to improve performance to the level of the MSC standard.
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Notes to editors:
Objections to proposed certifications with the MSC are lodged with an independent adjudicator (IA) under the auspices of the MSC. The IA examines the process undertaken by the conformance assessment body (i.e. the private, third-party entities that perform fishery assessments. In this case, Acoura Marine Ltd.) against the procedures set out by the MSC.

WWF regards the MSC as the leading seafood certification programme in the world, but WWF is also advancing a reform agenda that it believes the MSC should adopt as a priority to ensure its effectiveness, and as pressures on the ocean increase. See here for WWF’s recent public statement on this matter.

For media requests, please contact:
Rucha Naware | WWF International | rnaware@wwfint.org or news@wwfint.org | +918800811549
Yellowfin tuna caught in purse seine net
© © Hélène PETIT/ WWF