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Objections to bluefin tuna fishery in assessment

updated 16:00 UST 27 January 2020

The MSC has received two objections to the recommendation of independent assessors, Control Union Pesca Ltd, to certify the Usufuku Honten Northeast Atlantic bluefin tuna fishery to the MSC Fisheries Standard. The longline fishery, which is a single vessel with a quota to catch 200-400 bluefin tuna in the Eastern Atlantic, is in the final stages of independent assessment. Contrary to some reports, the fishery has not been certified. 

This is the first time any independent assessment of bluefin stocks in the Eastern Atlantic has been carried out using the MSC’s standard for sustainable fishing. Input from a wide range of stakeholders is vital throughout the assessment process. It ensures the independent assessor takes all available information into account when deciding if a fishery is or is not sustainable.

Objections raised by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Pew are being reviewed by an independent adjudicator who follows a formal process for objections. The independent adjudicator will decide whether to accept, dismiss or request clarification from WWF. Once the independent adjudicator has made their decision, the notice of objection will be published on the assessment pages for this fishery on

Update 27 January 2020: The independent adjudicator has accepted the objections from WWF and Pew, and will now consider these following the formal process for objections.  

Dr Rohan Currey, Chief Science and Standards Officer at the MSC said: 

“Scientific evidence on bluefin recovery in the Eastern Atlantic is encouraging [1]. The historic overexploitation of bluefin globally shows why it is so important to understand and incentivise the sustainable management of bluefin fisheries. The whole assessment process, which is ongoing for this fishery, happens entirely independently of the MSC so we can’t say what the overall outcome will be.”

Notes to editors

[1] International Commission for Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAR) Standing Committee on Research and Statistics (SCRS) Report, 2019 

Documentation for the assessment of the Usufuku Honten Northeast Atlantic longline bluefin tuna fishery is published on the MSC website, including objections. 

Independent assessment: MSC does not carry out the assessments or make recommendations for whether or not a fishery should be certified. Any wild fishery, with the exception of those using poisons or explosives, can ask an accredited independent body to assess its operations to see if it meets the MSC standard for sustainable fishery. Fisheries are assessed to the MSC Fisheries Standard by a team of experts from an independent conformity assessment body (CAB). This is in accordance with United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (UN FAO) guidelines and requirements set by ISEAL, the association for international credible standards setters. As part of this process, the MSC requires the CAB to seek and address input from all stakeholders. This is to ensure an unbiased, fair decision is reached. 

Objections: Assessment to the MSC Fisheries Standard includes opportunities for stakeholders to contribute throughout the process. The final stages of all assessments include the opportunity for stakeholders who feel that their previous points have not been effectively addressed in the assessors’ findings to raise an objection to a recommendation to certify the fishery. Objections are reviewed by an independent adjudicator following a formal objections process. The independent adjudicator is a legal expert, who has extensive legal and mediation experience as well as an understanding of the MSC Fisheries Standard and assessment methodology. Find out more about the objections process.

The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) is responsible for managing the Eastern Atlantic tuna stock. ICCAT has set a minimum size for tuna caught and a total allowable catch for 2020 of 36,000 tonnes of bluefin, which is shared between registered fishing boats.  

Usufuku Honten was established in 1882. The Usufuku Honten boat being independently assessed to the MSC standard, the Dai-ichi Shofuku-maru (Shofuku-maru No.1), has a less than 0.2 per cent share of the ICCAT Total Allowable Catch for 2020. Its catch is verified by the Japan Fisheries Authority as well as ICCAT.  The Dai-ichi Shofuku-maru caught an average of 292 bluefin tuna per year weighing around 150kgs each between 2012-18. The catch is quickly frozen onboard, then shipped to Japan. 

Control Union Pesca Ltd
is the independent assessor responsible for assessing the Usufuku Honten fishery to the MSC Fisheries Standard.