A new report by the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) states that the majority of world’s tuna stocks fails to meet Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) criteria.
Only six out of 19 major commercial tuna stocks are being managed to avoid overfishing and restore depleted fish populations, because the majority of the stocks are not protected by well-defined harvest control rules (HCRs) from regional fishing management organizations (RFMOs), according to independent scientists.
“ISSF 2017-09: An Evaluation of the Sustainability of Global Tuna Stocks Relative to Marine Stewardship Council Criteria” finds that, while there has been progress by RFMOs towards developing harvest strategies and implementing well-defined harvest control rules, failure to implement controls for stocks before rebuilding is required has led to an inability to meet the MSC standard’s minimum requirements on harvest control rules, the organization said.
In the December 2016 version of the report, almost twice as many stocks — 11 of 19 — were found to be well managed. This variance can be attributed in part to refinements made in 2017 regarding how the MSC standard assesses harvest control rules.
The authors note, “scoring guideposts were changed and additional guidance was provided to interpret the scoring guidepost text. The objective of these changes was not to alter the standard, but to continue to improve consistency in its definition and application across the wide variety of fisheries that are seeking certification.”
The MSC’s principle 1 states: “A fishery must be conducted in a manner that does not lead to overfishing or depletion of the exploited populations and, for those populations that are depleted, the fishery must be conducted in a manner that demonstrably leads to their recovery.”
Among seven tuna stocks in the Atlantic Ocean, two received an overall principle-level passing score: yellowfin and northern albacore, which “has recovered from biomass reductions several decades ago”.
Western Pacific skipjack, eastern Pacific yellowfin, eastern Pacific bigeye, and Indian Ocean skipjack all received principle-level passing scores.
In contrast, in the Pacific, four stocks received overall principle-level failing scores: western yellowfin; north albacore, south albacore, and western bigeye,” which has been undergoing a steady decline since the 1970s”.
Likewise, in the Indian Ocean, yellowfin, bigeye, and albacore all received overall principle-level failing scores.
Yellowfin stocks in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans require rebuilding, as does Atlantic bigeye, said ISSF.
Mediterranean albacore and Indian Ocean yellowfin had the most failing scores on individual performance indicators — including on stock rebuilding, harvest strategies and harvest control rules and tools.