Majuro, Marshall Islands 31 December 2016: Growing global market demand for MSC-certified tuna and fishing industry interest is expected to see “wild catch” tuna tonnage double from the waters of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement in 2017.
The Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) operates a Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified free school caught skipjack and yellowfin tuna fishery in the western and central Pacific fishing zones of its member nations.
In 2016, tuna fishing fleets complying with strict chain of custody rules that met MSC certification requirements delivered over 55,000 metric tons of sustainably caught free school tuna to market, said PNA CEO Ludwig Kumoru. “We expect the volume to double to about 100,000 metric tons in 2017 based upon existing orders,” he said. “With strong fishing industry buy-in for PNA’s MSC-certified fishery, we see the market for sustainably caught tuna continuing to grow. This benefits everyone — the fisheries industry, retailers, and PNA members. Most importantly, catching tuna without using fish aggregating devices (FADs) means tuna are being fished sustainably.”
A “free school” catch means a catch by purse seiners without the aid of FADs. This is verified by onboard fisheries observers at sea where the free school tuna is rigidly segregated in the hold of a purse seiner, and a rigorous chain of custody system is in place through transshipping to a processing plant and finally to the retailer so that consumers know with absolute confidence the story behind the tuna they buy in the store.
“PNA has gone above and beyond what others do (to ensure tuna caught meets free school catch requirements),” said Bill Holden of the Marine Stewardship Council. He pointed out that MSC certification makes the PNA tuna fishery more transparent. To meet MSC requirements, the fishery is also audited annually and every five years an extensive review is conducted, he said. In addition, PNA has been proactive in addressing conditions of the certification. Holden said a condition of MSC certification for the skipjack tuna fishery was development of “target reference points” for the tuna stock. This was developed by PNA and adopted as policy for this fishery by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission at its 2015 annual meeting, he said.
The next step is a harvest control strategy, which PNA is now engaged in developing for endorsement by the WCPFC, Holden said.
PNA Commercial Manager Maurice Brownjohn, who has developed the certification and chain of custody systems from the start, said MSC certification is the “gold standard” for fisheries sustainability. “MSC-certified skipjack and yellowfin from PNA waters now accounts for over 90 percent of all MSC-certified tuna being traded globally,” Brownjohn said. “PNA’s MSC chain of custody system is now seen as the global standard for free school caught tuna.”
From the initial MSC certification in December 2012, it took another year for PNA to develop and implement the rigorous chain of custody and traceability system before tuna was marketed as MSC-certified sustainably caught fish.
In addition, pointed out Mr. Kumoru, “at the outset of PNA’s move to meet MSC standards in our fishery, a number of industry players objected to PNA raising sustainability standards for the fishery and even attempted to block us through legal interventions. But PNA withstood these challenges and has demonstrated the viability and financial benefit of free school caught tuna. Today we are seeing strong industry participation to provide MSC-certified tuna to consumers.”
Since 2014, the volume of MSC-certified tuna from PNA waters marketed globally has continued to increase exponentially as more industry players see the benefit of participating in the scheme.
Fishing vessels that deliver free school caught tuna that meets the strict sustainability guidelines get as much as $100 per ton extra, and retailers are able to sell this tuna at a premium because it is sustainably caught.
The PNA established Pacifical as its marketing co-brand for pMSC-certified tuna, which in turn is paying dividends to PNA members from this Pacifical tuna marketed in Australia, New Zealand, Europe, USA and elsewhere. Retailers are paying up to a 20 percent premium for MSC-certified Pacifical tuna compared to tuna caught using FADs.
“There has been huge buy-in by private tuna labels and growing interest from brands globally,” said Mr. Kumoru. “Today, over 200 purse seiners are participating in the PNA scheme, which is why we anticipate the volume of MSC-certified tuna delivered to market to rise to 100,000 metric tons in 2017.”