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Atlantic tuna commission breakthrough for bluefin should inspire progress in the Western Central Pacific

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has today congratulated the International Commission for Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) on reaching a landmark agreement to adopt state-of-the-art conservation measures to safeguard stocks of Atlantic bluefin tuna.

The agreement to establish a management procedure for Atlantic bluefin was ratified yesterday, 21 November 2022, during the conclusion of the 23rd Special Meeting of the Commission. It follows years of hard work and collaboration between members of the ICCAT to evaluate and agree potential actions to safeguard bluefin tuna stocks. The outcome is a state-of-the-art harvest strategy which will now act as a ‘safety net’ ensuring Atlantic bluefin tuna stocks are allowed to recover should they ever fall below sustainable levels. ICCAT adopted a similar measure for North Atlantic albacore in 2021.

Commenting on the breakthrough, Rupert Howes, Chief Executive of the MSC said: “The agreement by 52 delegations participating in the Atlantic tuna commission sends a powerful message that agreement on long term measures to sustainably manage tuna stocks is not only possible, but also in the interests of the entire tuna industry and supply chain as well as the ecosystems on which they depend. The MSC wholeheartedly congratulates everyone involved in these lengthy negotiations between multiple nations for their commitment to ensuring bluefin tuna stocks are safeguarded for future generations.

“We very much hope that the leadership and courage shown by the Atlantic tuna commission inspires delegates from the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission when they meet next week. Progress is urgently needed to agree a workplan and harvest strategies for the long term benefit of all those who depend on tuna from the Western Central Pacific for their income, livelihoods and nutrition.”

Effective fisheries management is key to delivering the globally agreed Sustainable Development Goal 14 to safeguard life below water. It is also central to the United Nation’s Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries on which the MSC’s international standard for sustainable fishing is based. Many MSC certified fisheries, particularly tuna fisheries in the Western Central Pacific have time-bound conditions of certification to implement well defined harvest control rules, a core component of effective harvest strategies.

The MSC is joining leading retailers, tuna brands, the fishing industry and NGOs worldwide in calling for progress towards harvest strategies at the annual meeting of the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission taking place in Vietnam next week.