Cook Islands fishery MSC certified

10 Jun 2015
The Cook Islands Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) South Pacific albacore longline fishery is MSC certified. Credit: Mr Bullitt/CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons

The Cook Islands Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) South Pacific albacore longline fishery is MSC certified. Credit: Mr Bullitt/CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons

The Cook Islands Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) South Pacific albacore longline fishery has become the first Chinese tuna fleet to be certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

The fishery produces 2,300 tonnes of tuna per annum.

Bill Holden, MSC’s Asia-Pacific Fisheries Manager says, “The Cook Islands South Pacific albacore longline fishery has undergone scrutiny by an independent team of experts who have assessed the fishery’s performance against the MSC’s robust and widely recognised requirements for sustainable fishing. The fishery will continue to make improvements to meet the conditions set for it in order to remain certified.” 

WWF and the Fiji Tuna Boat Owners Association (FTBOA) filed separate objections against the certification on procedural grounds that required going before an independent adjudicator to resolve. A key issue for the WWF objection was the “highly subsidised nature of the fleet that it is believed will ultimately lead to overexploitation”.

WWF says that the objection process - although unsuccessful - clearly demonstrated the need for the MSC system to include an assessment of subsidised fishing fleets in the future.

To remain certified, the Cook Islands fishery must now implement harvest control strategies that ensure healthy stock levels are maintained, and also demonstrate that fish stocks are well managed. All fisheries in the program undergo annual surveillance audits to ensure the fishery is meeting the high standards set by the MSC.

Joe Murphy, Senior Vice President of Luen Thai Fishing Venture said, “We are so very happy to receive the certificate and to be a part of the MSC. There is no doubt that by being MSC certified, the Cook Islands tuna fishery will encourage more Chinese seafood companies to join this sustainability movement.”

The Cook Islands has a population of about 20,000 people and lies between Hawaii and New Zealand in the South Pacific. Fish and seafood products are one of the largest export commodities for the Islands.