Gland, Switzerland – WWF commends the Fiji Albacore Tuna Longline Fishery for becoming the first in Fiji to achieve Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Certification, a move WWF says will continue to promote the future health of tuna stocks in the region, bringing major benefits to the fishing industry, and result in positive impacts for consumers worldwide.
“This is an incredibly exciting step for the Fiji Albacore Longline Fishery to take and sets the standards for other longline tuna fisheries in the region to aspire to as the FTBOA has now created the momentum to shift fisheries in a sustainable direction,” says Seremaia Tuqiri, WWF South Pacific Fisheries Policy Officer.
“Not just a significant success in tuna conservation, the certification also represents major progress towards ensuring the social, cultural and economic health of the Pacific Island Countries, such as Fiji, that depend on tuna as an important resource. MSC certification encourages good stewardship of fisheries resources and, in turn, secures futures for our island economies.”
The MSC awarded the certification conditionally to the Fiji Tuna Boat Owners Association (FTBOA) Albacore Tuna Longline Fishery, managed under regulations put in place by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) and the Fijian government.
An active supporter of the FTBOA’s ambitions for MSC certification, WWF South Pacific was actively involved in the assessment process. Assessment against the MSC standard spanned 18 months and was conducted by an independent third party certifier. The current certificate is valid for five years, during which progress against the conditions set out in the certification requirements will be tracked and available for public review in annual surveillance audits.
FTBOA Secretary and Manager of the Fiji Fish Marketing Group, Russell Dunham, said the MSC certification will create market benefits for the Fijian tuna fishery.
“The certification offers opportunities to develop new markets in regions where demand for certified sustainable seafood is already high,” he said. “MSC certification will help promote the Fijian domestic fishery and also promote Fiji’s role in asserting Albacore Tuna management measures as part of the conditions of certification.”
The fishery has committed to take action to meet eight conditions to improve aspects of the fishery up to the international best practice level. This includes ensuring that management of the fishery is improved to establish reference points and a harvest strategy, including harvest control rules. The fishery has also implemented a management strategy that ensures the fishery does not slow down the recovery and rebuilding of retained species.
Daniel Suddaby, WWF’s Smart Fishing Initiative Tuna Programme Manager, adds “While we enthusiastically support FTBOA’s efforts in seeking and achieving certification, we do reserve some concerns about the conditions put in place by the MSC which the fishery must meet in order to retain certification. The WCPFC and Fiji government must take substantial actions on important management measures very soon to ensure the FTBOA maintains their certification.”
WWF is willing and committed to working with the FTBOA, WCPFC, and the Fiji government to meet the conditions of the certification and help ensure that the Fiji Albacore Longline fishery can maintain its MSC certification.
Notes: Reference points: benchmark values that help managers decide how the fishery is performing and is often based on an indicator such as fishery stock size or the level of fishing. Fisheries scientists conduct a fishery stock assessment to provide estimates of a fishery stock size and fishing mortality over time. Reference Points serve as a standard to compare those estimates based on our understanding of the biological characteristics of the targeted species.
Harvest control rules: pre-agreed actions to be taken by a management body designed to achieve a medium or long-term target reference point while avoiding reaching a limit reference point. Simple Harvest Control Rules can be described as an “if, then” statement. An example of a very simple Harvest Control Rule would be “if the fishery stock level falls below the target reference point, then the level of fishing must be reduced by 20 percent.”
Albacore Tuna is an important commercial and game fish, highly prized for its white tasty meat and is largely sold in fresh and frozen forms for markets in Japan, USA and China. Making up around 70 – 80% of the tuna catch recorded in Fiji, Albacore Tuna represents a large portion of the tuna export earnings.