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Artisanal French bluefin tuna fishery enters MSC assessment

September 25, 2018

London, UK – Today, a French artisanal longline and handline fishery representing small Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) boats, entered assessment against the MSC Fisheries Standard. The boats are grouped under the brand "Thon rouge de ligne – pêche artisanale". 

This is the second bluefin tuna fishery to enter MSC assessment and will be measured against the same standard that every fishery in the MSC global program is assessed against. The MSC assessment process uses science and evidence, and solicits input from diverse stakeholders. No judgements are made about how sustainable a fishery is until it has completed the full assessment. The third party independent assessment will be led by Control Union Pesca (CUP), an accredited and independent certification body. 

Bluefin tuna : a highly prized fish

Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) is a pelagic species distributed throughout the North Atlantic and the Mediterranean, from Brazil to northern Norway. Living between the surface and 500 to 1000 metres deep, it migrates great distances from the cold waters where it feeds to warmer regions where it breeds.  

In the Mediterranean, Atlantic bluefin tuna is fished by about twenty countries. Due to overfishing in the 1990 and 2000s, and concerns raised by environmental groups, fishers, businesses and the general public, its fishing is strictly supervised by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas. A restoration plan was set up in 2007 for a period of 15 years, which defined approximately fifty measures of conservation, monitoring and control of fishing activities.  

Assessing the sustainability of a bluefin tuna fishery

There are three different species of bluefin tuna in the world. Atlantic bluefin tuna is one, for which there are two stocks: the Western Atlantic stock, and the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean stock. The stocks mix in the Atlantic Ocean. 

The French fishery entering MSC assessment, targets Atlantic bluefin tuna on the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean stock. This fishery is made up of vessels under 18 meters that fish in the Western Mediterranean region (French EEZ) mainly in the Gulf of Lion and Upper Corsica. 

It is an artisanal fishery, working from April to December, that lands around 200 tonnes of bluefin tuna per year, and sells mainly to local markets such as upscale restaurants.  

To be certified to the MSC Fisheries Standard, the fishery must prove that the stock it is operating on is in good health and that an appropriate fishing strategy exists to ensure that all fishing effort on that stock is at a sustainable level. To do this, the assessment team and the scientific experts will need to analyze the impact of all fishermen and fisheries targeting this stock, not just the fishery that is entering MSC assessment. In addition to the health of the stock, they will also have to look at the relevance and responsiveness of the overall management strategy and also the minimization of the impacts of the fishery on bycatch. 

More about the SATHOAN French Mediterranean Bluefin tuna artisanal longline and handline fishery

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