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OPAGAC Raises Questions of MSC Certified FAD-Free Tuna

13 September 2016

SPAIN - The Producers’ Association of Large Tuna Freezers (OPAGAC) has published an article in the international scientific journal Marine Policy questioning the merits and scientific rigour of the assessment of industrial tuna purse seine fisheries when being certified against the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) standard.

OPAGAC considers that the industrial tuna purse seine fishing fleet should be certified holistically and not on artificially construed components of the fishery.

Currently, all industrial purse seiners depend on drifting fish aggregating devices (dFADs) for a significant part of their catches, including companies certified by the MSC. Fish caught in association to dFADs are, however, deemed to not meet the MSC standard and have not been certified.

OPAGAC argues that the certification of FAD-free fish is misleading as the largest proportion of the catch of any vessel comes from fishing operations that are associated to dFADs.

Furthermore, the division between dFAD-associated and free school fish is not scientifically robust and can be misconstrued to get certification where it is not warranted.

The main criterion used to separate the two types of school, namely the distance to a floating object, has not been applied consistently by MSC’s Conformity Assessment Bodies, and there are serious doubts that even if it were applied consistently the level of certainty to differentiate FAD-free from FAD-associated schools could not stand up to scientific scrutiny.

The paper also raises questions about the use of species composition, another criterion used to separate the two types of schools, to validate catches. The uncertainty that is inherently present in the current classification raises serious questions about the rigour surrounding MSC-certified FAD-free catches.

“By certifying part of the catch, MSC encourages the misuse of dFADs and does not help to address the issues surrounding their use,” says Dr Julio Morón, Manager of OPAGAC.

“If MSC wants to improve sustainability of tuna purse seining, all school detections systems (dFADs, anchored FADs, free schools, natural logs and other types of associations) should be included on the certification, as OPAGAC is doing on its Global Tuna FIP with WWF,” Dr Morón concludes.

Read the MSC's response, here.

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