October 12, 2021
Certified tuna fisheries in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) could be suspended without urgent action by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). That warning was issued by The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) in a July 2021 announcement. Industry stakeholders in the WCPO need the WCPFC to adopt precautionary, science-based harvest strategies to maintain their certifications and meet the MSC’s certifying standards. If these standards are not met by the agreed-upon deadline, 73% of all MSC certified tuna will no longer be able to tout the MSC’s “certified sustainable seafood” ecolabel.
The MSC requires that the WCPFC implement harvest strategies, pre-agreed management frameworks for making fisheries management decisions, for albacore, skipjack, yellowfin, and bigeye tuna stocks by June 2023. The MSC has determined that harvest strategies are the most effective way to control and implement sustainable catch levels. At present moment, it does not appear that the WCPFC is on track on to meet this deadline. And, the WCPFC only has two chances left on its calendar to adopt measures: its annual meetings in December 2021 and 2022.
A unified voice calling on the WCPFC to accelerate the development of harvest strategies will be critical in allowing stakeholders to maintain their certifications and meet the MSC’s conditions. The MSC urges stakeholders to voice to the WCPFC that it must revisit its current harvest strategy workplan at the upcoming 2021 Commission meeting to help fast-track adoption for these tuna stocks in 2022. The holdup for adoption is not due to a lack of progress on the scientific work. In fact, the development of the management strategy evaluation (MSE), a tool that is to used simulate fisheries and test harvest strategies, is significantly advanced and will provide a basis for harvest strategy adoption by 2022.
If industry stakeholders work in hand with their governments and the WCPFC, harvest strategies can be adopted by the close of the 2022 WCPFC Commission Meeting. The question is: will stakeholders and managers heed this warning?