Protecting Ocean Wildlife – Reducing Bycatch in Pacific Ocean Longline Tuna Fisheries, Sustainable Fisheries Partnership
“New research from Sustainable Fisheries Partnership highlights the impacts of commercial tuna longline fishing on endangered, threatened, and protected (ETP) species in the Western Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO). The report found a profound loss of nature in the region, where several species of sharks, seabirds, and sea turtles have declined by 70 percent or more.
Longline fishing has one of the highest rates of bycatch among the gear types used in commercial tuna fisheries. But, there are existing, proven best practices that can reduce bycatch, including using circle hooks, setting lines at night, and eliminating wire leaders.”
Their research summary touches on the MSC and Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs) in WCPO tuna fisheries, many of which are MSC certified. They note the recent changes to the MSC Fisheries Standard V3.0 requirements for ETP species and new independent observation requirements of 30% coverage for fisheries operating in the high-seas which interact with ETP species and are managed under an RFMO, and that fisheries will now need to factor in these new requirements.
A call to action and recommendations for seafood buyers from WCPO fisheries notes the opportunity that retailers have to drive change to save species like sharks, seabirds and sea turtles in the WCPO.
Our thoughts: SFP does not tend to be publicly critical of the MSC, however, its relatively new bycatch initiative clearly aims to drive change in the key area where MSC has failed – reducing bycatch and protecting ETP species. SFP’s recommendations to retailers on longline tuna go far beyond what the MSC standard requires:
- Require that best practices in bycatch mitigation from source tuna fisheries are implemented by 2025.
- Require that source tuna longline fisheries have complete observation coverage of vessels, with 50% coverage (human and electronic combined) by 2025 and 100% by 2030.
MSC will only take fisheries so far along the improvement route – an increased push for “beyond MSC” (and a great sense of urgency) by those in the sustainable seafood movement could see the certification become less relevant.