bluefin tuna fish

Tuna suppliers have struck a sustainability deal with NGOs and the Seychelles and Mauritius governments to protect fish stocks in the Indian Ocean.

A Memorandum of Understanding to launch a Fisheries Improvement Project (FIP) in the Indian Ocean was signed yesterday by John West owner Thai Union and Princes, as well as purse seine fleets and associations, WWF, the Republic of Seychelles and the Republic of Mauritius.

Covering catches of skipjack, yellowfin and bigeye tuna species from about 40 French, Italian, Spanish, Mauritian and Seychelles-flagged purse seine vessels, the five-year FIP aims to move tuna fisheries in the region towards Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification. It will focus on establishing healthy fish stocks and effective fisheries management in the region, with minimum and reversible impact on ecosystems from all fishing activity.

The alliance will also support the recovery plan of the yellowfin stock in the region and work with the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission to improve fisheries governance. Development of a work plan to implement the tuna fisheries improvement project will begin immediately in consultation with the WWF.

“This is a major step towards better tuna fishing and management in the Indian Ocean. Around 20% of the world’s commercially-caught tuna comes from this fishery, so it’s vital that work begins to improve the health of tuna stocks by improving their management and reduce the impact of fishing activities on the ecosystem,” said Daniel Suddaby, global tuna governance leader for WWF.

“We’re very encouraged that the Seychelles and Mauritius governments and the fishing industry in the Indian Ocean recognise the need to take action. We look forward to working with them to create meaningful change on the water and ultimately to deliver fisheries that can be MSC-certified.”

It comes as a new report from the MSC showed an “accelerated growth” in the global sustainable seafood supply chain, with the MSC certified-catch reaching more than 9.3 million metric tonnes of seafood in 2015-16.

The volume of MSC-certified fish has increased by 6% since 2014-15, while the MSC certified supply chain has climbed 16% over the same period, the 2015-16 Annual Report found.