The Tri Marine Western and Central Pacific skipjack and yellowfin tuna fishery has achieved MSC certification for free school tuna caught using its purse seine vessels.
This achievement effectively expands the area of MSC certification in the Western Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) beyond the waters of the Partners to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) to include tuna caught in US territorial waters, the waters of several Forum Fisheries Agency member countries, and the high seas. The result will be to increase the availability of MSC certified skipjack and yellowfin in the US market, especially through Tri Marine’s tuna base and processing facility in American Samoa.
The fishery will supply brands in the US, including Tri Marine’s own Ocean Naturals. Products will be eligible to carry the blue MSC label as an independent mark of sustainability.
Environmentally sustainable fishing
“We are proud to have pioneered the development of free school tuna products to create market-based incentives for environmentally responsible fishing practices,” said Matthew Owens, Tri Marine’s director of environmental policy. “Broadening our portfolio of MSC certified fisheries and products is an important part of our sustainability strategy. It not only provides positive recognition of our ongoing sustainability efforts, but it also boosts our supply of tuna certified to carry the blue MSC ecolabel.”
Independent assessors and expert staff from SCS Global Services, who produced the fishery’s 350-page assessment report, found that the fishery meets the MSC’s requirements for healthy stocks, minimizing environmental impacts, and promoting good management. Stocks of both skipjack and yellowfin in the WCPO are healthy and projected to remain so.
Each eligible vessel in the Tri Marine fleet carries an observer at all times to ensure that the fishery complies with legal and regulatory requirements as well as those of the MSC.
This MSC certification applies only to free school purse seine fishing because bycatch from that fishery is low.
MSC certified tuna
“Tri Marine joins a group of elite tuna fisheries that have achieved conformance with the world’s most robust, science-based standard for environmental sustainability,” said Jim Humphreys, global fisheries coordinator at the Marine Stewardship Council. “This is a significant accomplishment which requires investment in science, management and supply chains. It will contribute to the preservation of our oceans and precious tuna stocks.”
Around 842,000 metric tons tuna caught in 2015 is MSC certified – this represents around 16 percent of total tuna catches. Demand for MSC certified tuna is particularly important in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
Commitments to best practices
While the independent assessment team from SCS Global Services found that the Tri Marine fishery meets the high standards set by the MSC, it has required six conditions of certification. In order to deliver these conditions, the fishery has put an action plan into place to gather more data on its impacts on sharks, deliver staff training, and improve stock management. As with other MSC certified tuna fisheries, conditions also include requirements for well-defined harvest control rules.
“International cooperation is required in order to safeguard tuna stocks for the future” said Humphreys. “We encourage fisheries, NGOs, retailers, and food service companies to work together to support effective management of tuna fisheries by regional fisheries management organizations, which will ensure long term sustainability.”