A tuna Fishery Improvement Project (FIP) for the Indian Ocean has been activated, with the signing of a partnership agreement between 17 organisations in a multi-stakeholder industry-led initiative. The FIP will work towards meeting the fisheries sustainability standard set by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).
The MSC Fisheries Standard reflects international best practice in fisheries management and is based on United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (UN FAO – Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries) guidelines. To meet this standard, fisheries must be well managed so that fish stocks remain healthy and impacts on the environment are minimised. Therefore, achieving this standard would provide credible verification of the sustainability of Indian Ocean tuna fisheries.
The goal of the FIP is to achieve measurable and verifiable improvements in the Indian Ocean tuna fisheries so that they become fully compliant to the MSC standard. It is a multi-stakeholder effort that will utilise the collective power, resources and efforts of the partners to bring about positive improvements to the way these fisheries are managed. The FIP will strive to support the development of robust harvest strategies for tuna, ensure management measures are in place to maintain target and secondary species above biological limits, and provide a framework to manage the ecosystem impacts associated with purse seine fishing.
The agreement has been signed by a confederation of partners, comprising: ATUNSA Inc.; Beach Fishing Limited; Compagnie Francaise du Thon Océanique (CFTO); Hartswater Limited; Inspesca Fishing Ltd; Indian Ocean Ship Management Services (IOSMS); Interatun Ltd.; Industria Armatoriale Tonniera; Isabella Fishing, Ltd; OPAGAC; Orthongel; OPTUC (ANABAC); Princes Limited; SAPMER SA; Thai Union Europe; Thunnus Overseas Group; and Tuna Fishing Company (TFC).
The confederation of partners represents the FIP’s spirit of collaboration, which has concentrated the strengths of industry (including fishing fleets and processors) and non-governmental organisations with the support and participation of WWF and the Government of Seychelles in order to deliver measurable improvements to the sustainability of the region’s tuna fisheries. The Governments of Madagascar and Mauritius have also indicated interest in participating in the FIP.
“This is a very encouraging development towards better tuna fishing and management in the Indian Ocean. The FIP has brought together a huge range of organisations and demonstrates the meaningful impact that a collaborative, industry-led approach can deliver. With the planned establishment of an Executive Committee and FIP Project Management Team, we look forward to continuing our work to ensure fisheries that are critical in the region can work towards achieving the MSC standard,” said Tracy Cambridge, WWF.
The FIP will focus on the key areas of sustainable sourcing (healthy and well managed fish stocks, minimal and reversible impact on ecosystems, and effective fisheries management framework) and ensure that best practices are adhered to by supporting the development and adoption of appropriate conservation and management measures by the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC).
It will cover the catches of the three most important commercial tuna species (skipjack, yellowfin and bigeye), from around 40 French, Italian, Spanish, Mauritius and Seychelles-flagged purse seine vessels. The FIP will also focus on supporting the recovery plan of the yellowfin stock in the region and will work closely with the IOTC to improve fisheries governance in the region.
Further information on the FIP can be found on the Indian Ocean Fishery Improvement Project website: https://www.wwf.org.uk/what-we-do/projects/indian-ocean-tuna-fishery-improvement-project.