Yesterday the Marine Stewardship Council has published the Final Draft Report (FDR) by the certification assessment body (CAB) Lloyd’s Register on the scope extension of our PNA Western and Central Pacific skipjack, yellowfin, and bigeye tuna purse seine fishery. The report focuses on extending the scope of the certification from exclusively being a free school fishery to now include sets on Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs). Once certified this entire fishery will cover around 1.5 million M/T of catch.
This addition of FADs to the current certification was forced on the PNA nations after pressure by certain market parties and NGOs 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 both catching methods used by tuna purse seiners. The effective date of this new MSC requirement begins on March 25, 2023.
The FDR, which also includes an extension of our unit of certification to cover bigeye tuna, tentatively recommends that our purse seiner fishery should now be certified.
Lloyd’s Register recognizes the health and status of all three major tuna stocks in our PNA waters are not subject to overfishing. They have scored skipjack at 85.8, yellowfin at 84.2, and big-eye at 81.7 on Principle 1.
On our FAD management strategy we received a final score of 75, showing that still, further progress needs to be made. FADs within our area are identified as having ‘moderate’ impacts on coastal habitats, especially vulnerable coral reefs. PNA will seriously consider recommendations on the introduction and large-scale use of non-entangling and biodegradable FADs, but this will take time.
For some time, PNA nations jointly have 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 route is being taken by PNA and will occur with or without the support of other member countries within the WCPFC, same goes for conditions on the FAD design and materials.
PNA has been a pioneer in FAD tracking since 2016, and with funding received from the Pew Charitable Trust and the support of SPC, it has been possible to determine the rate of FAD beachings, which largely occur in the 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 December 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 annually reviews the limits of 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 FDR 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% onboard observer program in the pre-COVID period. 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 20-40%, which is well above the standard advised by SPC. Noting observer coverage is currently not an MSC requirement.
Those stakeholders that still have objections after the review of their earlier comments and the recommendation to certify by the CAB, have the possibility to log their objections before UTC 5 pm on November 18, 2021
You can find and view the FDR 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