IPNLF: Integrity of MSC under threat

05 Aug 2015

The International Pole & Line Foundation (IPNLF) is warning that the integrity of the MSC sustainability standard is under threat, due to the “flawed determination” to certify the Echebastar Indian Ocean purse seine skipjack, yellowfin and bigeye tuna fishery.

The objection hearing against the certification of the fishery was held in London at the end of last week. The IPNLF was one of the parties attending the hearing and raised its concerns about the sustainability of this particular fishery.

At the hearing, John Burton, chairman of the IPNLF, said, “We expect all assessments to fully meet with the MSC standard, that the Conformity Assessment Body (CAB) assumes the role of independent third-party auditor and that the arguments and scoring put forward in the reports and in response to stakeholder comments are rational and supported by evidence.

“We consider that by no means has this been the case for the Echebastar fishery and that the determination to certify the fishery is fatally flawed. In our opinion, the CAB, Food Certification International (FCI) Ltd. now trading as Acoura Marine, showed a lack of understanding of Indian Ocean tuna fisheries in general and an almost complete lack of understanding of the workings of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC).”

IPNLF’s objection to the certification of the fishery centres on three key contentions: That the assessment process had serious procedural and other irregularities that made a material difference to the fairness of the assessment; a failure by the certifier to assess the various management regimes under which the Echebastar fleet operates within the Indian Ocean; and the absence of a clear definition of what constitutes a free school or FAD-free fishery.

At the hearing, Dr Shiham Adam, Director for Science & Maldives for the IPNLF, elaborated on the FAD-free school issue by reminding attendees that the IOTC Secretariat does not currently record bycatch and endangered, threatened and protected (ETP) species data separately for free- and log-schools and that it is therefore impossible to distinguish between the impacts that Echebastar’s fleet currently has on highly vulnerable species such as oceanic whitetip sharks and silky sharks. The IOTC’s Working Party on Ecosystems and Bycatch (IOTC-WPEB) gave a high vulnerability ranking to both these shark species in interactions with purse seine gear. The IUCN status for silky sharks in the western and eastern Indian Ocean is ‘Near Threatened’ and ‘Vulnerable’ while this is the finding for oceanic whitetip sharks globally. These potential impacts were largely ignored in the assessment of the fishery.

“In our opinion the fishery substantially fails the MSC requirements for having a robust fisheries management regime in place. The lack of any legal definition of the fishery makes it difficult to understand how governments can control catches or any other aspects of their operations,” said Dr Adam.

“There are two things we must do and it’s critical that we achieve both: Firstly, ensure the long-term sustainability of the Indian Ocean tuna fisheries; and secondly, protect the integrity of the MSC process”, he said.

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