The Marine Stewardship Council has published an Advanced Consultation Document Report (ADCR) on the scope extension of our PNA Western and Central Pacific skipjack, yellowfin and bigeye tuna purse seine fishery. The ADCR was submitted by Lloyd’s Register, PNA’s Conformity Assessment Body (CAB). The report focuses on extending the scope of the assessment from exclusively being a free school fishery to now include sets of Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs).
This principle change was forced on the PNA nations after pressure by certain market parties and NGO’s which demanded an end to compartmentalization. This led to a change in the MSC rules that now require the PNA MSC certified fishery to include not only free school sets, but also FAD sets, so in effect the whole ecosystem. The effective date of this new MSC requirement begins on 25 March, 2023.
The ACDR, which also includes an extension of our unit of assessment to cover bigeye tuna, tentatively recommends that our purse seiner fishery should advance to full assessment.
Lloyd’s Register recognizes the health and status of the tuna stocks in our PNA waters are not subject to overfishing, however considering the extension, Lloyd’s has set a number of scoring issues to be addressed.
The Assessment is recommending that PNA implements a FAD management strategy. FADs within our area are identified by the assessors Rob Blyth Skyrme & Kevin McLoughlin as having ‘moderate’ impacts on coastal habitats, especially vulnerable coral reefs.
PNA fully supports and welcomes this condition on FAD management, as they have for some time been in the process of establishing an innovative and comprehensive FAD registration and monitoring scheme along with initiatives to reduce the impact of FAD beaching. This includes an end to the use of traditional FADs, and the utilization of lesser entangling FADS, with a timely transition to biodegradable FADs. This route is being taken by PNA and will occur with or without the support of other member countries within the WCPFC.
PNA has been a pioneer in FAD tracking since 2016, and with funding received from of the Pew Charitable Trust, and the support of SPC, it has been possible to determine the rate of FAD beachings, which largely occur in Solomon Islands, PNG and Kiribati. PNA had previously commissioned work into assessing the environmental and economic impact of FADs.
Along with harvest strategies for skipjack and yellowfin, the strategy will be extended to include bigeye tuna. All Pacific fisheries are required to have a harvest strategy for all tuna species in place by June 2022. PNA has worked hard on developing a strategy for skipjack, as a priority, but unfortunately progress and countless attempts to advance the process towards adopting a global Pacific strategy have been blocked by Distant Water Fishing Nations such as Japan and the USA.
PNA already had its own control mechanism in place in the EEZs of PNA members , through the highly successful Vessel Day Scheme (VDS) and annual reviews limit the program based on the requirements set by WCPFC to limit the total tuna fishing effort to 2010 levels. PNA will remain firm towards adopting harvests strategies in its waters, with or without the support of other nations.
Another matter addressed in the report is the issue of shark interactions. PNA has a ban on shark finning and strict rules that apply to shark retention, all closely monitored by our 100% on-board observer program. Whilst this program has suffered in 2020 due to COVID 19, the PNA has still managed to maintain an observer coverage rate of up to 30%, which is well above the standard advised by SPC. Noting observer coverage is currently not a MSC requirement. , The assessors also identified the need to protect manta and mobulid rays, and this condition will be met with the implementation of a specific new WCPFC conservation measure that will come into effect early in 2021, and this complements recommended on-board handling practices already in place. You can find and view the ADCR report here: https://fisheries.msc.org/en/fisheries/pna-western-and-central-pacific-skipjack-yellowfin-and-bigeye-tuna-purse-seine-fishery-fad-and-non-fad-sets/@@assessments