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In recent years, much has been done to help Atlantic bluefin tuna stocks recover from overfishing. Two bluefin tuna fisheries are now demonstrating a commitment to sustainable practices by seeking MSC certification.

The Japanese longline fishery – the Usufuku Honten – is set to the be the first bluefin tuna fishery certified, following a two year assessment process.

Find out more about the pathway to recovery for Atlantic bluefin tuna.

Bluefin tuna fisheries seeking MSC certification

The Usufuku Honten Northeast Atlantic longline bluefin tuna fishery entered MSC assessment in August 2018 and went through an extensive assessment process that included independent adjudication on objections, raised by The Pew Charitable Trusts and World Wildlife Fund (WWF). 

The SATHOAN French Mediterranean bluefin tuna artisanal longline and handline fishery entered MSC assessment in September 2018. The public comment draft report was published in March 2020 and assessment of this fishery is ongoing.  


Usufuku Honten

Below are some of the key steps in this fishery’s path to certification.

Formal documents related to this assessment are publicly available on Track a Fishery and were published at each milestone in the assessment process.


August 2018

Usufuku Honten announces entry into MSC assessment

  • assessment carried out by independent assessors Control Union UK
  • stakeholders invited to submit comments throughout assessment process

September - October 2018

Site visits

  • site visits held in Las Palmas, Spain (September 2018) and Tokyo, Japan (October 2018)
  • all stakeholders invited to attend site visits 
  • stakeholders WWF and The Pew Charitable Trusts attended follow-up meetings in Tokyo and Madrid respectively

February 2019

Peer reviewers announced

  • stakeholders had a 10-day period to comment on peer reviewers selected

August 2019

Public comment draft report published

  • stakeholders had a 30-day period to comment on the report
  • December 2019: assessor recommends certification in final report
  • stakeholders had an 18-working day period to submit objections to certification



January 2020

Notices of objection lodged

  • WWF and The Pew Charitable Trusts lodged notices of objections to certification.
  • an independent adjudicator accepted the notices of objection after parties made agreement on some points of objection during a consultation phase

March - April 2020

Informal talks held to resolve objections

  • stakeholders and assessor held five meetings to resolve objections



April 2020

Assessor advised independent adjudicator that unresolved objections remain

  • the four unresolved issues were limited to the management plan for this bluefin tuna stock and questions about the science around the current stock level of bluefin tuna
  • independent adjudicator confirmed intent to proceed to adjudication

June 2020

Adjudication hearing held

  • independent adjudication hearing held on 1 and 2 June 2020
  • independent adjudicator announced decision to uphold one of the objections on 26 June 2020 
  • The assessor was then required to resolve the remaining objection relating to bluefin tuna maturity rates

July 2020

Independent adjudicator directive sets the course for certification

  • assessor responded to independent adjudicator's decision on 17 July and agreed to lower the score it gave Usufuku Honten in relation to the management plan for bluefin tuna stock
  • this lowered score meant that Usufuku Honten were given a further condition to certification and must make improvements to their bluefin tuna stock management plan. The fishery will be audited annually to ensure progress is made 
  • WWF asked for a more detailed action plan for this condition, but the independent adjudicator considered the action plan already clear enough
  • the independent adjudicator instructed the assessor to make minor amendments to the updated certification report, and stated that the objections were resolved. The certification report is to be republished on Track a Fishery
  • under the MSC certification process, fisheries have action plans to make improvements in specific areas, as a condition of certification. For Usufuku Honten, there have been seven conditions set, including providing evidence that the strategy to minimise bycatch works, and another ensuring there are clear harvest control rules in place to ensure stock levels stay around the maximum sustainable yield

Usufuku Honten - Final decision of the Independent Adjudicator, post-remand
Date of issue: 30 July 2020
Download download file PDF - 2 MB
MSC Fisheries fact sheet: Eastern Atlantic Bluefin Tuna 2020
Date of issue: 30 July 2020
Download download file PDF - 2 MB
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