New data shows a continuing decline in the number of shark finning incidents occurring in the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) purse seine tuna fishery, including the MSC certified skipjack and yellowfin free-school fishery.
As part of its ongoing review and consultation on shark finning, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) commissioned fisheries experts, Poseidon Aquatic Resource Management to conduct research into shark finning in tropical tuna fisheries engaged in the MSC program.
This research has provided the MSC with new data showing a decline in the number of shark finning incidents within the MSC certified PNA purse seine tuna fishery, from 266 incidents in 2013 to 3 in 2017, a reduction of 99% (Figure 1).
Similar reductions have been observed across the non-certified fleet. The total 5 incidents of shark finning, reported for certified and non-certified catches in 2017, were observed within nearly 10,000 monitored sets – an incidence rate of 0.05%.
This is the most recent, comprehensive data available from the observer programme for fishing activities in PNA and Tokelau waters, as held by the Pacific Community (SPC) on behalf of its members. The data set is collected by independent observers who join every single tuna fishing trip in the region. Observers undergo a debriefing process soon after the trip and comprehensive quality control on data entered into the regional observer database ensures a high level of confidence in the data.
Shark finning, the practice of removing a shark’s fins before discarding the remaining carcass back into the sea, was effectively banned within the PNA fishery in 20101. The ban was further reinforced by legislation to protect oceanic white tip2, whale3, and silky4 sharks, as well as national-level regulations5.
Dr Francis Neat, Head of Strategic Research at the MSC, said: “Whilst any shark finning is deeply regrettable, these new data confirm the previously reported downward trends in shark finning incidents in the PNA fishery. These data show the fishery has virtually eliminated shark finning, which is a tremendous success story against the backdrop of the tens of millions of shark fins that are estimated to be traded globally each year6. This achievement is one of the best examples of how an MSC certified fishery has taken decisive action to deliver substantial improvements to ensure responsible fishing practices in order to maintain its MSC certification.”
This data has been shared with the conformity assessment body (CAB), Lloyd’s Register, responsible for assessing the MSC certified component of PNA fishery and will be used in the upcoming annual surveillance audit, ensuring that the fishery continues to meet the MSC’s requirements. It has also been provided to the UK government’s Environmental Audit Committee as part of its inquiry into Sustainable Seas, extending the timeline of the data already provided from 2015 to 2017.
Since 2013, the MSC Fisheries Standard has required fisheries to demonstrate the likelihood that shark finning is not taking place at the point that they are first certified, or recertified. Certified fisheries are required to demonstrate that the level of external validation and regulations in place are sufficient to enable the fishery to verify that shark finning is not taking place. This can include the level of observer coverage and dockside monitoring within the fishery.
The MSC is committed to ensuring the Fisheries Standard remains aligned with what is globally considered to be best practice. It recently embarked on its Fisheries Standard Review which occurs every 5 years. Shark finning requirements will be considered under this review with the aim to ensure that requirements continue to reflect best practice globally.
Figure 1: Incidents of shark finning (trunk discarded, fins retained) in PNA fishery 2013 -2017 based on data provided by Poseidon Aquatic Resource Management Ltd. Source of data: SPC information programme (TUBS) for PNA vessel activities in PNA and Tokelau waters. Bar colours reflect gear types as detailed in legend: Blue = MSC certified component of the PNA fishery, other colours = non-certified components of the PNA fishery (using anchored fish aggregating devices (FADs), drifting FADs and around floating logs). Data for 2018 not yet available.
1 CMM-2010-07 – Conservation and Management Measure for sharks. In 2010 new measures were introduced by the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) requiring fishers to fully utilize any retained catches of shark.
2 CMM 2011-04 - Conservation and Management Measure for Oceanic Whitetip Sharks. Additional protection prohibiting retaining, transhipping, storing or landing any Ocean Whitetip shark. Effective from 1 July 2013.
3 CMM 2012-04 - Conservation and Management Measure on the protection of whale sharks from purse seine operations. Prohibiting setting a purse seine on a school of tuna associated with a whale shark if it is sighted prior to the commencement of the set. Effective from 1 July 2014.
4 CMM 2013-08 – Conservation and Management Measure for silky sharks. Additional protection prohibiting retaining, transhipping, storing or landing any silky shark. Effective from 1 July 2014.
5 Examples of national acts prohibiting shark finning:
- Government of Kiribati Shark Sanctuary Regulations, 2010
- Federated States of Micronesia - Title 24 of the Code of the Federated States of Micronesia, 2011 & PUBLIC Law NO 18-108, Amendment 454
- Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority (Amendment) Act 2018
- Solomon Islands: Fisheries Management Act, 2015 and Solomon Islands Offshore Fisheries Regulations
- Tokelau Fishing Vessel Licence General Conditions (Sections 63-66)
6 Shark Fin Trade: Why it should be banned in the United States, Oceana (2016); Dent, F. & Clarke, S. (2015). State of the global market for shark products. FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper No. 590. Rome, FAO. 187 pp.
Notes for editors:
The MSC is not able to share the full research report by Poseidon Aquatic Resource Management Ltd as it includes yet to be published data supplied in confidence to the researchers and the MSC. Special permission was sought in order to share data for the PNA fishery. For data on shark finning within other tuna fisheries, journalists should contact the responsible Regional Fisheries Management Organisation directly.
The latest data differs slightly from preliminary data previously reported to the UK Government Environmental Audit Committee due to being more up-to-date and complete.
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