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Cook Islands albacore longline fishery achieves MSC certification

The Cook Islands Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) South Pacific albacore longline fishery has become the first Chinese tuna fleet to be certified to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Fisheries Standard. Certification of this Pacific tuna fishery is welcome news as it represents growing supply of MSC certified sustainable tuna. The fishery produces 2,300 tonnes of tuna per annum.

The Cook Islands fishery now joins a leading group of more than 250 MSC certified fisheries that are helping to ensure healthy marine ecosystems for this and future generations.  Achieving MSC certification brings global recognition to this pioneering fishery’s efforts, and will also help safeguard the livelihoods of many in the Cook Islands.

Ben Ponia, Secretary for Cook Islands Ministry of Marine Resources says a significant part of the certifier’s evaluation required assessing government’s capacity to manage the albacore fishery in a sustainable manner. Achieving the industry gold standard and having the ‘Blue Tick’ label of MSC is a significant milestone for our longline fishery. It is recognition of the high standards here in the Cook Islands. It will enhance the exclusivity of our fishery and add value to our albacore tuna export” he said.

MSC program provides a tool for transforming global tuna fisheries

The MSC program provides a powerful instrument for transforming the global tuna fisheries market to a sustainable basis, and improving the way tuna fisheries are managed and governed.

Bill Holden, MSC’s Asia-Pacific Fisheries Manager says “The Cook Islands South Pacific albacore longline fishery has undergone scrutiny by an independent team of experts who have assessed the fishery’s performance against the MSC’s robust and widely recognised requirements for sustainable fishing. The fishery will continue to make improvements to meet the conditions set for it in order to remain certified.” 

To remain certified, the Cook Islands fishery must now implement harvest control strategies that ensure healthy stock levels are maintained, and also demonstrate that fish stocks are well managed. All fisheries in the program undergo annual surveillance audits to ensure the fishery is meeting the high standards set by the MSC.

Cooks Islands is leading the way for other tuna companies in the region

Joe Murphy, Senior Vice President of Luen Thai Fishing Venture expressed his excitement at the news. “We are so very happy to receive the certificate and to be a part of the MSC. There is no doubt that by being MSC certified, the Cook Islands tuna fishery will encourage more Chinese seafood companies and other tuna companies to join this important sustainability movement,” he said.

More than 500 improvements have been identified in fisheries engaged in the MSC program, one example is of the New Zealand Hoki fishery whereby, through effective management, the population has more than doubled since it was first certified.

A key component of the Islands' economy

The Cook Islands has a population of about 20,000 people and lies between Hawaii and New Zealand in the South Pacific. Fish and seafood products are one of the largest export commodities for the Islands. Achieving MSC certification could help to expand the market for tuna from the Cook Islands.

Around 721,000 MT of tuna caught per year is MSC certified, representing around 15% of the global tuna catch.