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A complement, not a competition

Posted by Susan Jackson
29 October 2012

This week the Chair of our Scientific Advisory Committee, Victor Restrepo, is in Singapore for his first Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Technical Advisory Board (TAB) meeting. Just a few months ago he accepted an appointment to serve a three-year term on the TAB, which “advises the MSC Board on technical and scientific matters” and, among other things, is responsible for helping develop the methodology that MSC uses for certification and accreditation, as well as reviewing the progress of fisheries towards the standards agreed upon as part of their certification.

The TAB deals with maintaining the MSC standard for all wild-caught fish species, but it’s no stretch to say that MSC recognizes the significance of tuna. Currently, only about 10% of world tuna harvest is MSC certified, and the reason is simple – many fisheries do not meet the standard, and those that do still require improvements be made to maintain certification.

Both ISSF and MSC share the principle that in order for a fishery to be sustainable not only must the stock be healthy, but also the environmental impact of the fishery must be in line with ecosystem needs and the management structure in place must ensure that long-term sustainability objectives are achieved.

As an example of our shared objectives, most recent MSC assessments of tuna fisheries have concluded that regional fishery management organizations (RFMOs) have so far failed to implement harvest control rules based on target and limit reference points. These measures of whether vessels are catching fish at a sustainable rate are part of a good management structure and required at the unconditional pass level by the MSC fishery assessment methodology. ISSF is currently working within the RFMO system’s initiatives to help fishery scientists identify these reference points, and advocating for nations to adopt the scientific advice, and for clearly defined harvest control rules that help bring a stock back to target levels (you can read more about harvest control rules in a blog I recently co-authored and watch a video we put together explaining the importance of these management measures).

For its part, the MSC process allows for certified fisheries to carry conditions, and one of those requirements often placed on tuna fisheries is that the client – the group seeking certification – does its part to push for managers to adopt reference points and control rules. As ISSF has become more active as a stakeholder in the MSC assessment process, these conditions have been strengthened.

While some may see us as competitors, ISSF is in fact a complement to the approach of MSC. Through our science-based approach we can help clear a pathway that leads to more sustainable tuna fisheries, which can ultimately be certified according to MSC guidelines.  It’s not about competition – it’s about conservation.



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