Press release

The PNA Western & Central Pacific skipjack tuna fishery’s ‘free school’ set operations gains MSC certification

January 9, 2012

The PNA Western & Central Pacific skipjack tuna fishery (PNA skipjack fishery) has had its purse seine fishing operations (see Notes for Editors) targeting free schools of skipjack tuna certified as sustainable against the MSC environmental standard for sustainable and well managed fisheries.

Since entering assessment midway through 2010, the PNA skipjack fishery has demonstrated - through a rigorous, transparent, independent assessment process conducted by Intertek Moody Marine against the MSC Standard, and with the active involvement of many stakeholders – that the skipjack tuna stocks it targets are healthy, that its free school fishing practices have minimal impact on the marine eco-system and that overall the fishery's free school operations (see Notes for Editors) are sustainably managed.

As a result of the free school fishery's certification, 30 per cent of the skipjack caught in the PNA fishery, and 16 per cent of the skipjack caught in the WCPFC convention area will be eligible to bear the blue MSC ecolabel. The fishery must, however, first demonstrate that it meets the MSC Chain of Custody requirements to ensure product traceability throughout the entire supply chain, before the ecolabel can be used. 

About the fishery

The PNA Parties refer to the Parties to the Nauru Agreement. The Nauru Agreement is an Oceania sub-regional agreement between 8 member countries concerned with the management of tuna fishing in their EEZs and adjacent high seas.

The certification covers the purse seine vessels licensed by the PNA, which operate across the EEZs of Papua New Guinea, Kiribati, FS Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.

The certification covers fishing operations setting on free swimming schools of tuna only, responsible for a catch of 267,087mt in 2009. This catch is sold to Europe and North America where it is commonly canned and is a popular ingredient in salads and sandwiches.

The PNA manages the fishery through Binding Agreements that involve setting minimum licensing standards and require detailed reporting mechanisms, vessel inspections and vessel identification. They also require 100% observer coverage on vessels, catch retention strategies to be in place and prohibit fishing in high seas for licensed vessels. These Agreements also limit the purse seine fishing activities using a Vessel Day Scheme (VDS), which caps the total number of fishing days allowed in the fishery irrespective of the number vessels operating.

Improvement conditions in place as part of certification of the fishery

As part of the certification requirements, a number of conditions (or management actions) have been specified to assure continued improvement of the environmental performance and management of the fishery. These improvement conditions have been agreed to by the PNA, and have been integrated into their Client Action Plan. They relate to the setting and adoption of appropriate limit and target reference points, the development of more effective harvest control rules by the PNA and/or the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, implementing additional management strategies for by-catch reduction and developing additional information about the fishery’s interaction with protected species.

What the fishery operators say:

PNA Director, Dr Transform Aqorau says: "After many years of hard work and leading the world in conservation and fisheries management, today, the PNA fulfills its aspiration of being the world’s largest independently certified, free school purse seine tuna fishery."

"With MSC certification of the PNA’s free school skipjack operations, our customers can be confident that the free school tuna caught in our waters meet the highest standards for well managed and sustainable fisheries. Our MSC certified tuna will be traded and marketed under the brand name Pacifical, appealing to consumers that want to support us in our endeavours to protect our tuna, our oceans and our Pacific way of life."

What the MSC says:

MSC Pacific Fisheries Manager, Bill Holden, congratulates the fishery on the certification of its free school skipjack tuna fishery saying:  “The PNA countries have a well-deserved reputation for the progressive management of their tuna resources for the benefit of their people. They should be congratulated for undertaking, and meeting, such a scientifically rigorous assessment of the fishery’s free school skipjack fishing practices.”

“With tuna being one of the world’s most highly sought after and widely consumed seafood products, there is a growing demand for tuna fisheries around the world to achieve and demonstrate sustainability, as the PNA skipjack fishery has done."

“Increasingly consumers, and the seafood supply chain itself, are seeking out tuna products that can be verified as coming from a sustainable source. By gaining MSC certification for its free school operations, the PNA skipjack tuna fishery has put itself in a good position to capitalise on this growing movement, and we expect demand for their certified tuna products to be high.”

Notes for Editors:

Tuna purse seining is a fishing method whereby a vessel circles a school of tuna with a net and then closes the bottom to create a bag that is hauled to the side of the boat so the fish can be lifted onboard.

Free school operations - Fishing without any association with objects (natural or man-made, known as Fish Aggregating Devices or FADs), but may include a free school feeding on bait fish. Set distances from such objects being 1 nautical mile or greater.

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