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The report, titled An Evaluation of the Sustainability of Global Tuna Stocks Relative to Marine Stewardship Council Criteria, scores the current health of the 19 commercially fished tuna stocks, as well as the effectiveness of international management regimes, which independent and accredited assessment teams use, in part, to determine whether a fishery should be certified as sustainable. In MSC terms, these two areas are considered Principle 1 and the international management component of Principle 3. The analysis does not cover management in national or bilateral jurisdictions, nor gear/fleet-specific ecosystem impacts (Principle 2).
"When a particular fishery applies for MSC assessment, you are typically looking at one gear type, in one region for one portion of a stock of tuna, and there have been some inconsistencies in results as well as an overall lack of a global benchmark standard," said ISSF President Susan Jackson. "Rather than doing what the MSC process fosters, which is starting at the bottom and working at the local level on a particular fishery, we thought that the discussion would benefit from also starting at a top level and applying the principles systematically and equivalently across all 19 stocks and across all tuna regional fishery management organizations, or RFMOs."
While not an official MSC assessment, the report delivered some encouraging findings about tuna stocks, revealing that most of the nineteen assessed are stable. However, it also found that management systems in place are outdated or less effective than they could be. This is mostly due to a lack of harvest control rules or specific reference points in the guidelines of the four main tuna RFMOs.
The study is ongoing and will be continually updated to reflect changes in MSC Certification Requirements and to reflect the most up to date management measures adopted by tuna RFMOs each year.
Jackson added that, "In addition to serving as a resource for an interested public, this report will also help ISSF focus its resources on addressing the roadblocks to certification for tuna fisheries, which ultimately means the challenges that prevent us from declaring all tuna sustainable."
Joseph E. Powers and Paul A. H. Medley conducted the study on behalf of ISSF. Both have years of experience working on MSC fishery assessments.
About the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF)
The International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) is a global coalition of scientists, the tuna industry and World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the world's leading conservation organization, promoting science-based initiatives for the long-term conservation and sustainable use of tuna stocks, reducing bycatch and promoting ecosystem health. To learn more, visit their website at iss-foundation.org.