By Pita Ligaiula in Da Nang, Vietnam

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has warned 33 MSC-certified tuna fisheries in the region may lose certification if the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) fails to adopt management measures of a harvest strategy for skipjack tuna and demonstrate progress towards delivering harvest strategies for other tuna stocks within the region.

These fisheries, which include skipjack, yellowfin and bigeye tuna in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) and albacore tuna in the South Pacific, are managed by the 26 member states of the WCPFC, which share these stocks.

The MSC’s concern is that a failure to agree to harvest strategies would not only threaten the long-term sustainability of these tuna which account for 85 percent of all MSC certified tuna.

Fisheries Standard Director Rohan Currey said the management system for WCPFC doesn’t have a concrete commitment for adoption of harvest strategies.

“This is a game changer in many respect, what it means in terms of immediacy is although the condition deadline was the middle of next year, all of the currently certified stocks that use the same rationale as what came up in the adjudicator decision are now vulnerable to suspension almost immediately.

“We don’t trigger harmonisation for Independent Adjudicator’s (IA) decisions and the reason why there wasn’t new information that appeared on the table it was the IA interpretation of the evidence. But what actually will happen in practices the Conforming Assessment Body to maintain all the certificates will be looking at this meeting and if something isn’t agreed, we will expect suspension triggered across the fisheries,” said Currey.

Currey said MSC certification not only demonstrates a stock is productive and healthy, but ensures fisheries are well-managed and committed to reducing their impacts on the marine environment.

Without the harvesting strategy being adopted this year, all the Tuna species in Western and Central Pacific are at peril. This would cause a global turmoil in the market for sustainable Tuna.

A proposals of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) that a harvest strategy for skipjack Tuna is in reach would guarantee a sustainable supply for the generations to come.

“They need to get the work programme updated to be clear and they need to adopt the FFA’s proposal. We’ve commissioned a review of the FFA proposal by an independent assessor to evaluate the performance of that relative to the standard in their estimation it makes the requirement for what we call a generally understood well defined harvest control rules, so we are not closing out the condition in its current form.

“The MSC recommendation push like there is no tomorrow for those management measures to go over the line, that’s the ask because if it doesn’t happen, certified Tuna is out in the Western Central Pacific, so the stake is reasonably high,” said Currey.

Experts say what is decided this week at the WCPFC meeting in Vietnam will influence dramatically the work done on marketing sustainable Tuna fisheries so far on global level.