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Progress on harvest strategies urgently needed to safeguard tuna stocks in the Western Central Pacific

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is calling on member governments of the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) to pass important conservation management measures for tuna stocks at the 19th Regular Session of the Commission, taking place in Da Nang, Vietnam from 27 November to 03 December.

These measures will safeguard the long-term sustainability of the world’s most important tuna stocks by committing fishing nations to pre-agreed actions to safeguard tuna stocks should they ever decline below sustainable levels.

Progress on agreeing harvest strategies is increasingly critical to the ongoing certification of these fisheries to the MSC’s global standard for sustainable fishing. A lack of progress in delivering workplans for the implementation of harvest strategies is eroding the rationale for tuna fisheries in the Western Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) meeting minimum requirements of MSC certification for available harvest control rules (HCRs).

To ensure ongoing MSC certification, WCPFC delegates must reach agreement on two key conservation management measures, which would result in the implementation of a harvest strategy for skipjack tuna and demonstrate progress towards delivering harvest strategies for other tuna stocks within the region. The outcomes of the meeting will be considered collectively by the Conformity Assessment Bodies (CABs) responsible the certification of all 33 MSC certified tuna fisheries in the WCPO to determine whether they provide the evidence needed to support ongoing certification.

Rupert Howes, Chief Executive of the MSC said: “Failure by the WCPFC to implement harvest strategies would jeopardise the long-term health of these stocks and undermine the progress made by WCPO fisheries, which have worked hard to improve their sustainability and meet the MSC’s global standard for environmentally responsible and sustainable fishing.

“These fisheries, which include skipjack, yellowfin, albacore and bigeye tuna in the Western Central Pacific represent the majority of this economically vital catch. The call for harvest strategies is being reiterated by leading retailers, tuna brands, the fishing industry and NGOs worldwide. Effective fisheries management forms a cornerstone of the United Nation’s code of conduct for responsible fishing and is central to delivering the globally agreed Sustainable Development Goal 14 to safeguard life below water. As a result, we hope to see a strong endorsement for the conservation measures tabled for negotiation at next week’s meeting.”

In addition to continuing to meet minimum requirements, all tuna fisheries in the WCPFC have timebound conditions to implement stronger harvest strategies with well-defined HCRs by June 2023 to remain certified to version 2 of the MSC Fisheries Standard. An agreement to adopt harvest strategies for skipjack at the upcoming meeting could close this condition for MSC certified skipjack fisheries. For certified fisheries targeting other tuna species, convincing progress towards agreeing HCRs could provide the opportunity to remain certified beyond June 2023 by adopting requirements within the new MSC Fisheries Standard. These new requirements allow an additional five years for fisheries to implement state-of-the-art harvest strategies, while adopting the other significant improvements included in the new Standard.

MSC representatives will be observing the WCPFC meeting.

Find out more about the challenge facing MSC certified tuna fisheries in the WCPO > 

Notes to editors:

WCPFC delegates are due to negotiate two draft Conservation and Management Measures (CMMs) which, if agreed would strengthen the case for ongoing MSC certification:

  1. The Draft Conservation and Management Measure on a Management Procedure for WCPO Skipjack Tuna; and
  2. The Proposed Amendment to CMM 2014-06 on Establishing a Harvest Strategy for Key Fisheries and Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean that was submitted by the Forum Fisheries Agency to directly address the decision of the IA in the PNA objection by providing stronger evidence for progress and a commitment on establishing HCRs.