PNA: Forget Long-Term FIPs, Direct Action Crucial
PNA member nations do not have the luxury of “working towards sustainability”, like many FIPs, but have to act directly, as a means of survival. This was the bold message of the PNA Office’s Commercial Manager, Maurice Brownjohn, when he spoke at the SeaWeb Seafood Summit this week.
According to Brownjohn, these “8+1” island countries, whose EEZs cover an area 40 percent bigger than Europe, have been innovative and proactive when it comes to conservation, as there is “no other choice”.
The PNA started in 1978, 23 years before the WCPFC’s establishment, with the idea of making needed decisions to conserve and manage the rich tuna stocks in the region. Brownjohn calls it a “leading innovator”, mentioning high seas and FAD closures, catch retention regulations, skipjack target reference points, observer programs, VDS and more.
The biggest step to date, however, is that the PNA fishery became the first MSC certified skipjack and yellowfin free-school purse seine fishery globally, stresses Brownjohn. He adds that the region also “went beyond” with the creation of a comprehensive chain of custody (CoC) to validate MSC claims, while many fisheries remain in long term Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs).
And while the PNA and subsequently the WCPFC step ahead, all other global RFMOs are on a downward trend, he says, questioning why this is the case. ISSF was pointed to during the presentation, the lobby group representing 75 percent of all canned tuna marketed globally. In 2011, it promised that all tuna stocks would be at the level of MSC, by 2017. This year, the same promise was made again, but with the much later date of 2023.
Brownjohn adds that the ISSF claims today that there is 97 percent industry compliance with its conservation measures, yet the organization has still failed to reach its “MSC standard” target. In the PNA he stresses that island nations do not have the luxury of making such promises and “not delivering”.
With the term FIP taking over in industry talks, and ISSF itself focusing more on FIPs than MSC, Brownjohn questions a claim presented by its President Susan Jackson at the Bangkok tuna conference. There she said “A FIP is equal to an MSC certified fishery with conditions.”
He points to what he says are “6 years without any sustainability results in ISSF”, and adds that there are now massive investments in FIPs, with large donations to NGOs, and again long-term promises. Many FIPs have an aim to reach MSC certification standards within five years, but Brownjohn says they have hardly produced any results in the last decade.
Instead, with stocks getting worse, he fears these projects could be used as a “green wash to buy time and satisfy NGOs, while securing market”. This in turn undermines the term “sustainable certified fishery” through self-certification or a kind of “MSC Light”, he adds.
With this, it was emphasized that there are no self-certified claims that can be used when it comes to MSC. Under the Pacifical MSC, the PNA’s CoC runs from catch to consumer, ensuring full transparency and traceability. The latest announcement from the region is that as part of its new “Smart Ocean States” policy, Pacifical MSC tuna caught in the PNA waters will be fully blockchain compliant by the end of July 2018 – another example of what Brownjohn refers to as “leading” innovation.