Press release

MSC certificate suspended for Maldives pole and line yellowfin tuna

April 15, 2016

Certifier DNV-GL has suspended the MSC certificate for the yellowfin component of the Maldives pole & line skipjack and yellowfin tuna fishery. The suspension is effective from April 15th, 2016. As a result, any yellowfin harvested by this fishery from this date cannot be sold as MSC certified or carry the MSC ecolabel.

Yellowfin stocks in decline

The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) Scientific Committee recently released its assessment for the yellowfin tuna stock which showed significant declines as a result of overfishing and relatively low reproduction levels. The stock is targeted by a large number of countries fishing in the Indian Ocean. The IOTC reported that the substantial increase in longline, gillnet, handline and purse seine fishing effort, and associated catches in recent years, has substantially increased the pressure on the Indian Ocean stock as a whole, with recent fishing exceeding the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) related levels.

IOTC executive summary on the status of yellowfin tuna >

“Healthy tuna populations are essential for both the wider marine environment and fishing economies. The MSC Fisheries Standard therefore requires that MSC certified fisheries are targeting healthy or recovering stocks that are well-managed”, said Dr Adrian Gutteridge, Fisheries Assessment Manager at the MSC.

Safeguarding yellowfin stocks

MSC certification requires annual surveillance audits for all certified fisheries. During the Maldives pole & line fishery audit, DNV-GL’s assessment team reviewed the latest scientific data and concluded that the stock no longer meets the MSC Standard’s requirements for stock health, and the certificate for yellowfin tuna is therefore suspended.

“We consider this suspension to be appropriate action in order to safeguard yellowfin tuna populations within the Indian Ocean and to support positive change in the way our oceans are managed. We encourage the IOTC to adopt measures needed to ensure effective management of all fisheries under its responsibility,” added Dr Gutteridge.

Yellowfin tuna caught by the Maldives pole and line fishery that were harvested before the date of suspension and are currently in the supply chain are still eligible to be sold as “MSC certified” or with the ecolabel in accordance with MSC Chain of Custody requirements.

Due to the suspension, the fishery client now has 90 days in which to produce a corrective action plan which addresses the cause of the suspension. If this action plan is produced and is confirmed by the certifier, the yellowfin component of the fishery will then remain suspended until there is evidence for recovery in yellowfin stocks. If the fishery fails to produce an action plan in the time allowed, its MSC certificate will be withdrawn.

Understanding the need for action

In recognition of the implications that suspensions have on supply chain organisation, the fishery and the MSC are in contact with commercial partners and will keep them informed of any development with this suspension.

“The MSC Standard requires fish stocks to be at healthy levels, and we look forward to seeing an effective plan developed and implemented for the recovery of yellowfin tuna in the Indian Ocean.” said Jim Humphreys, MSC Global Fisheries Coordinator.

The IOTC, an intergovernmental organisation responsible for the management of tuna and tuna-like species in the Indian Ocean, will hold its annual meeting in La Reunion, France in May 2016.

Read Jim Humphreys' blog post on the challenges sustainable tuna fishing >

View the suspension notice >

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