First bluefin MSC certification to be decided on single objection

The first potential Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification of a bluefin tuna fishery hangs in the balance at the end of June, with an independent adjudicator upholding one objection and asking assessors to look again.

Independent adjudicator Eldon Greenberg heard and considered evidence in relation to four objections filed by WWF and The Pew Charitable Trusts against the potential certification on June 1 and 2. He upheld one, related to the evidence used to conclude how long bluefin tuna take to grow and reproduce, MSC said.

“This evidence has bearing on how quickly fish stocks are expected to rebuild, to meet the MSC fisheries standard,” the accrediting group explained.

The assessment body, Control Union Pesca, must provide further response to the adjudicator by July 10. WWF and the fishery then have five days to comment on any proposed action before the independent adjudicator must rule.   

If certified, the Usufuku Honten fishery would be the first bluefin fishery in the world to achieve MSC certification. 

“This bluefin tuna fishery – Usufuku Honten – is not yet certified, and we await the independent assessment body’s response to these findings and further input from the fishery and WWF,” said Rohan Currey, chief science and standards officer at the MSC.  

MSC welcomed “robust contributions from stakeholders”, calling them essential to the independent assessment process. “It’s clear from the independent adjudicator’s comments that both organizations have influenced his decision published today.” 

“Whatever the outcome of this specific assessment, there is an urgent need for bluefin tuna stocks to be managed sustainably. We appreciate the contribution of all parties involved in this process in working toward achieving that outcome,” Currey added.

As the case went to the independent adjudicator, WWF claimed the process came after a “questionable evaluation process that has repeatedly ignored the fragile status of the stock”, before claiming a lack of impartiality on the part of Control Union Pesca.

WWF presented its case on how the certification process of the bluefin tuna fishery “has dismissed the best available science and therefore produced a much too positive evaluation of the fishery that does not reflect the reality at sea”.