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Final determination on assessment of the Northeastern Tropical Pacific tuna fishery

Following the decision of an independent adjudicator, the third party assessment of the Northeastern Tropical Pacific purse seine yellowfin & skipjack tuna fishery has been upheld, confirming the certifier’s determination that the fishery meets the MSC Fisheries Standard.

The fishery, operated by the Pacific Alliance of Sustainable Tuna (PAST), includes 36 purse seine vessels fishing for yellowfin and skipjack with both free-school and dolphin associated sets.

The certifier will now need to review the independent adjudicator’s decision and update its final report to include the revised scoring requested by the IA. This content must be approved by the IA before the certifier can move forward to issue the public certification report for the fishery, at which point the fishery would be certified.

The MSC Standard is widely recognized as the world’s most credible and robust standard for sustainable, well-managed fisheries. Only fisheries that demonstrably meet the MSC’s rigorous, scientific requirements for sustainability achieve MSC certification.

Since entering the assessment process in 2014, the fishery has undergone detailed review and assessment by an independent team of experts headed up by MSC-accredited certifier, SCS Global Services. As part of this process the MSC requires certifiers to seek and consider formal input from all interested stakeholders. In this case, it conducted numerous rounds of stakeholder input, and reviewed and responded to nearly 300 pages of stakeholder comments. This is an essential part of a thorough and credible assessment of a fishery’s practices. The findings were also peer reviewed by two independent experts, subject to MSC technical oversight, and reviewed by the scheme’s accreditation body, Accreditation Services International.

Consideration of objections

Following the assessment team’s final determination that the fishery should be certified, the MSC received an objection to certification from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). These concerns were reviewed and considered in detail in an orderly and transparent process by an independent adjudicator.

The independent adjudicator, Melanie Carter is a legal expert with extensive fisheries, law, and mediation experience, as well as an understanding of the MSC Fisheries Standard and assessment methodology.  She published her decision today to uphold the determination of SCS Global Services. Her decision, including the supporting reasoning, is available on 

Recognising improvements

Since the 1980s, concern for the impacts of purse seine fishing in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean (EPO) drove international governments and NGOs to sign a series of transformative conservation agreements focused on ensuring the sustainability purse seine fishing in the EPO. One of the most significant of these is the 1999 Agreement on the International Dolphin Conservation Program (AIDCP), focused on ensuring the sustainability of fishing in the EPO and the protection of dolphin populations through science-based regulation, concerted improvement of fishing practice, and independent monitoring by onboard scientific observers. The AIDCP was awarded the Margarita Lizárraga Medal by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in 2005 for its “unqualified success” in protecting dolphin and ensuring the sustainability of fishing in the EPO. Under this agreement, which requires 100% coverage by onboard scientific observers to monitor compliance, fishers work proactively to ensure the live release of all non-tuna species including dolphin. Data show that between 1985 and 1997 dolphin mortalities as a result of purse seine fishing in the Eastern Tropical Pacific fell by 99%. Since then, dolphin populations have been increasing, according to the international regulator in the ocean the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC).  

Brian Perkins, MSC regional director - Americas, said: "A MSC assessment is a highly transparent and meticulous process and I applaud any fishery that puts themselves under the microscope and scrutiny of this assessment. Decisions are made based on science and evidence, and in a highly consultative manner. In reaching its conclusion that this fishery should be certified, the assessment team took full consideration of the impacts this fishery has on the entire ecosystem, including dolphin populations.”

Ongoing conditions of certification

As part of its commitment to achieve MSC certification, PAST has committed to a comprehensive sustainability action plan, which includes: further dolphin protection measures including investments in net alignment and training in best practices across the fleet; significant financial investment in an international research program to assess dolphin populations in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean; zero retention and maximum live release program for all sharks and rays; and active stakeholder engagement in building more transparency in fisheries in Mexico.

The IA’s final decision is available on >

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