Vast tuna fishery wins eco-label
January 11 2012 Lewis Smith
An area of the Pacific covering four million square miles has been declared one of the world’s largest sustainable fisheries after winning a prestigious eco-label.
Enough tuna to fill more than 2.67 billion sandwiches each year – 7.3 million a day - can be caught in the western and central Pacific fishery.
It has now been awarded sustainability certification by the Marine Stewardship Council and with an annual catch of more than 267,000 tonnes is among the biggest fishery to boast the eco-label.
Certification was granted despite concerns voiced by the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation that management of the catches is inadequate.
Among the conditions imposed on the fishery if it wants to keep the MSC label, however, is that observers accompany every boat in the fleet and that there is a restriction on the number of days each vessel can remain at sea.
The capture technique that has been certified is purse seine fishing in which a large net is carried round a shoal to surround it before the bottom is drawn tight, in effect creating a vast string bag that is then hauled out of the water.
The fishermen are not allowed to use fish aggregate devices – platforms left in the water that attract fish and many other marine species – because of the high levels of bycatch.
Most of the skipjack caught by the newly certified fishery is for Europe and the US as canned tuna traded and marketed under the brand name Pacifical.
The certification applies to skipjack caught by purse seine vessels licensed by the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) and operating within the 200 mile limit of waters around Papua New Guinea, Kiribati, FS Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.
Dr Transform Aqorau, director of the PNA said the MSC label offered customers a guarantee that “tuna caught in our waters meet the highest standards for well managed and sustainable fisheries".
Bill Holden, the MSC's Pacific fisheries manager, said: “With tuna being one of the world’s most highly sought after and widely consumed seafood products, there is a growing demand for tuna fisheries around the world to achieve and demonstrate sustainability, as the PNA skipjack fishery has done.
“Increasingly consumers, and the seafood supply chain itself, are seeking out tuna products that can be verified as coming from a sustainable source.”
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