The Fiji Albacore Tuna Longline Fishery has been certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). It is the first Fiji fisheries to be certified. This ‘offers opportunities to develop new markets in regions where demand for certified sustainable seafood is already high,’ highlights the secretary of the Fiji Tuna Boat Owners Association.
The assessment measured the health of the tuna stock, the long-term management strategy in the South Pacific for this fishery, as well as the potential ecosystem impacts of the Fijian fishery, to ensure this resource remains sustainably exploited. The assessment found that the albacore stock was in good health, and that the Fijian fleet was following good management principles, with marginal impact on ecosystems. The assessment process benefited from the technical and financial assistance from the EU funded DEVFISH project, managed by the Forum Fisheries Agency and the Secretariat for the Pacific Community.
However, other challenges are facing Fijian producers who would want to export to the EU. In mid November, Fiji was notified that it could face trade sanctions by the EU for non-cooperation to fight IUU fishing. In particular, shortcomings in respect of the monitoring, control and surveillance of fishing activities were identified. According to the EC, these are linked with the lack of proper legal instruments, particularly specific provisions in the national legal framework referring to measures to combat, deter and eliminate IUU fishing activities.
It may seem odd that, on the one hand, the Fijian albacore longline fishery gets MSC certification, while on the other, Fiji is being notified by the EC that it could be considered as not cooperating against illegal fishing, unless corrective measures are taken. It indicates that when assessing the fisheries management, ‘quality’ is perceived differently by the EC and a private ecolabel such as the MSC. While the MSC certifies private operators, the EC looks at the institutional capacity of countries (coastal state, flag state, etc.) fulfilling their responsibilities in the fight against IUU fishing. However, such a situation may raise doubts with consumers and citizens about the validity of these assessments. Is the MSC being too lax in a situation where it cannot be guaranteed that fisheries management measures are respected? Or is the EC being too stringent with a country where fleets – such as the local albacore longline fleet – comply with the highest sustainability standards, which includes abiding by fisheries management rules.