Tuna purse seiner operator Compagnie Française du Thon Océanique (CFTO), one of the largest French tuna companies, has been awarded MSC certification for its Indian Ocean skipjack tuna catches.
This is a roughly 30,000 tonne annual fishery, carried out by eight vessels based in the Seychelles and fishing in the western part of the Indian Ocean, within the EEZs of Seychelles, Mauritius, Mayotte, TAAF (French Southern Antarctic Territories), and in international waters.
The certification follows a 17-month assessment during which independent certification body Control Union UK Ltd, and scientific experts analysed the sustainability of the fishery.
‘This certification highlights the changes driven by the company, the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission, NGOs and scientists to improve management of skipjack tuna fishing in this area. This is a strong positive signal for securing sustainable skipjack,’ stated Margaux Favret, France Director at the Marine Stewardship Council.
The certification recognises the commitment of fishermen and managers over a number of years to reduce the impacts of fishing on marine ecosystems, and ensure proper management of the skipjack tuna population in the Indian Ocean.
‘This work is not yet finished, but we commend the environmental commitment of fishermen and hope they inspire others to join the movement, to make tuna fishing sustainable in the long term,’ she said.
Fishing organisations, scientific institutions and NGOs provided their input during the consultation phases. The certification applies to purse seine fishing on free schools and FADs, to be monitored annually over a period of five years.
The fishery complies with the three sustainability principles of the NGO MSC specifications.
The skipjack tuna stock in the Indian Ocean is in a strong condition. The adoption of catch control rules by the IOTC on this species, and increased monitoring of fishing activities make it possible to limit fishing to a sustainable level and ensure efficient management of the resource.
The fishery has also worked to minimise the impacts of fishing gear and FADs on the environment by limiting their number per vessel, working with scientists to develop non-damaging and biodegradable FADs to reduce interactions with vulnerable species and by training the crew to release by-catch species safely.
‘This certification is the culmination of several years of CFTO’s commitment to the sustainability of tuna resources. The planet and its biodiversity are precious natural capital that we must conserve for future generations,’ explained Diek Parlevliet, chairman of CFTO’s parent company Parlevliet & van der Plas.
To maintain certification, a number of criteria have been set to improve working practices, particularly concerning to the use of FADs to further limit the risks to sensitive habitats or endangered, threatened or protected species.
The company also undertakes to continue its work with the IOTC to ensure that fisheries management is effective in the long term, which will allow the skipjack tuna population to be maintained in its current strong condition.