Press release

Assessment of Usufuku Honten bluefin progresses to independent adjudication hearing

June 1, 2020

An independent adjudicator will today and tomorrow hear evidence for and against the potential certification of the Usufuku Honten Northeast Atlantic bluefin tuna fishery. The hearing, conducted entirely independently of the MSC, aims to resolve the outstanding disagreements on whether the fishery meets international standards for sustainable fishing set by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). 

This assessment is the first time a bluefin tuna fishery has been considered for certification to the MSC’s science-based standard. The historic overexploitation of bluefin means that it has drawn international attention. 

Dr Rohan Currey, Chief Science and Standards Officer at the MSC said: “Over the past two years, independent experts, scientists and NGOs involved in this assessment have scrutinised and debated the sustainability of the Usufuku Honten fishery.  

"This bluefin fishery voluntarily entered into assessment in 2018 and that process is still underway. As part of this, WWF and The Pew Trust will now have the opportunity to present unresolved objections to an independent legal expert, who will then decide a way forward.

“The MSC follows best practice in standards setting. To ensure our impartiality, the MSC does not play an active role in the certification process. 

“We cannot prejudge the outcome of this assessment - but fisheries only get certified if they can demonstrate, through evidence, that they meet the MSC's robust standard. Clearly, this is vital for a stock such as the Eastern Atlantic bluefin which has suffered historic over-exploitation."

Independent adjudication 

Following a detailed assessment process, including stakeholder consultation, peer review and third-party oversight, the independent assessment body, Control Union Pesca Ltd, recommended that the fishery be certified in December 2019.

WWF and The Pew Trust launched formal objections to this recommendation in January 2020.

The independent adjudicator is an impartial, legal expert, appointed by the MSC’s Board of Trustees to consider evidence presented by all parties involved in this assessment. This includes evidence from objectors WWF and The Pew Trust, alongside the findings of Control Union Pesca Ltd. 

Further information

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