Skip to main content

Breakthrough in Western Central Pacific points to a ‘sea change’ in international fisheries management

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has today congratulated delegates of the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) for a significant breakthrough on the agreement of important measures to safeguard the world’s largest tuna stock.

Last week government representatives from the 26 member states of the WCPFC met face to face for the first time in three years in Da Nang, Vietnam. Agreement on harvest strategies – something which members had so far failed to achieve, despite many years of negotiation – is vital for securing the long-term health of tuna stocks.

At the conclusion of the meeting on Saturday 3rd December, delegates  reached agreement on a number of measures relating to harvest strategies.  Pending publication, these measures will act as guiding principles for future fisheries management, creating a ‘safety net’ to allow tuna stocks to recover should they ever fall below currently sustainable levels.

Most significantly, the Commission agreed to adopt a harvest strategy for skipjack – the most abundant tuna species in the Western Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO). The Commission also reaffirmed its commitment to put in place harvest strategies for all tuna species before stocks fall below sustainable levels.  

This follows a landmark agreement by the International Commission for Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) less than two weeks ago to adopt a harvest strategy for Atlantic bluefin tuna.

Dr Rohan Currey, Chief Science & Standards Officer at the MSC who was in Vietnam for the Commission meeting said: “Multilateral agreements aren't easy, especially when they cover some of the largest and most complex fisheries on the planet, so this is a significant accomplishment for all involved. With this new commitment from the WCPFC following just after the agreement on a harvest strategy for Atlantic bluefin, we may be  seeing an encouraging ‘sea change’ in multilateral fisheries management.

“The measures agreed by the WCPFC are a significant step forward in safeguarding some of the World’s most abundant and economically important tuna stocks. There is however still much work to be done to ensure effective harvest strategies are in place for all tuna stocks in the region. I encourage everyone involved to capitalise on to the momentum created in Da Nang to drive forward their plans to deliver further safeguards for tuna fisheries in the region over the coming years.“

Once finalised and published, the agreements reached in Da Nang will be reviewed by the independent conformity assessment bodies (CABs) responsible for assessing 33 tuna fisheries in the WCPO to the MSC Fisheries Standard to determine how they impact the ongoing MSC certification of tuna fisheries.

Tuna fisheries which continue to meet the minimum requirements of MSC certification will have the opportunity to apply the new version  of the MSC Fisheries Standard early, giving them five years to meet new requirements for more comprehensive, state-of-the-art harvest strategies. 

Find out more about why adoption of harvest strategies in the Western Central Pacific Ocean is vital for the long-term sustainability and MSC certification of tuna fisheries in the region >