Purse seine fishing vessels targeting skipjack and yellowfin tuna belonging to the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Fishing Industry Association (FIA) have achieved certification to the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) standard for sustainable fishing.
The assessment, carried out by independent assessors from SCS Global Services, found that the fishery meets all 28 performance indicators required for MSC certification. These include measures of sustainable fish stocks, bycatch, habitat impacts and effective management.
Strengths of the fishery identified through the assessment included the high level of observer coverage on purse seine vessels, and the comprehensive Monitoring Control and Surveillance (MCS) system that includes a Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) and port inspections.
The latest stock assessment for skipjack and yellowfin tuna in the Western Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) shows that stocks are healthy and being fished at a sustainable rate. In order to ensure that the fishery can respond to any future changes in the health of these tuna stocks, certification is conditional upon the adoption of harvest strategies including harvest control rules, by all member states of the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) by 2021.
Further conditions placed on certification include greater evidence for the effective management of the impacts of fishing on whales and whale sharks, and of the impacts of lost and derelict Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs); and improvements in the implementation of management arrangements at the domestic level.
The certification covers 64 vessels targeting skipjack and yellowfin in both PNG’s Exclusive Economic Zone and archipelagic waters. 32 vessels are PNG-flagged, and 32 vessels are Philippines-flagged and licensed as Locally Based Foreign Fishing Vessels.
The vessels use unassociated sets (free school), anchored FAD sets, and drifting FAD sets, with sets on free schools accounting for 74% of all sets between 2013 and 2017. The EEZ free school components of the certification have been certified as part of the PNA Western and Central Pacific skipjack and yellowfin tuna purse seine fishery.
Tuna caught by the fishery is landed in the PNG ports of Lae, Madang, Wewak and Rabaul, and in General Santos City, Philippines, for processing. The tuna is exported as loins and in cans to markets in Europe, Australia and the USA.
Sylvester Pokajam, PNG Fishing Industry Association president, says: “This certification will open new markets for PNG-made products and expand on-shore processing and fishing of tuna, leading to new employment opportunities, foreign exchange earnings, and spin-off businesses.”
Mr Pokajam added, “The PNG Fishing Industry Association now has in place a Responsible Sourcing Policy which includes the Marine Litter & Fishing Gear (Ghost) Management Practices, and labour onboard improvement (crew welfare, improving working conditions of crew onboard their fishing vessels).”
John Kasu, Managing Director of the National Fishery Authority (NFA), says: “This certification recognises Papua New Guinea’s commitment to the sustainable management of our tuna fisheries, and is the first step towards eventually pursuing MSC certification for other national fisheries such as the tuna longline yellowfin and albacore fishery, Gulf of Papua prawn fishery, mud crab fishery, Torres Strait & Western Province rock lobster fishery, and beche-de-mer.”
Bill Holden, the MSC’s global tuna expert, says: “During a time of increasing demand for canned tuna, it’s vital that tuna can be traced back to a responsible fishery which has all the checks and balances in place needed to safeguard our oceans and seafood supplies for future generations. Skipjack and yellowfin tuna caught by this fishery can now be sold with the MSC blue fish tick, giving consumers that assurance. I congratulate everyone who worked to improve and demonstrate the sustainability of this fishery on this important achievement for Papua New Guinea.”
About the MSC
The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is an international non-profit organisation. Our vision is for the world’s oceans to be teeming with life, and seafood supplies safeguarded for this and future generations. Our ecolabel and certification program recognises and rewards sustainable fishing practices and is helping create a more sustainable seafood market. The MSC ecolabel on a seafood product means that: it comes from a wild-catch fishery which has been independently certified to the MSC’s science-based standard for environmentally sustainable fishing; it is fully traceable to a sustainable source. msc.org.
The MSC Sustainable Tuna Handbook, Global Edition, provides a comprehensive summary of the state of global tuna stocks, the issues surrounding its sustainable harvest, global market demand and certified sustainable tuna fisheries. It was developed with input from major tuna producers and brands in the UK and aims to guide those sourcing and buying tuna towards sustainable choices. Download for free at msc.org/tuna.