• Industry Profile Issue 1/2018

    INFOFISH interviews Susan Jackson, President of the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF)


    According to the ISSF website, the four areas of focus for the organisation to work towards sustainable use of global tuna fisheries are tuna conservation, bycatch reduction, illegal fishing elimination, and capacity management. Which area would you say is the most challenging?

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Each of our focus areas presents challenges, and these challenges are very much interconnected. Just as there is no silver bullet solution for sustainable fisheries, there’s no single work stream in isolation that will help ISSF reach our objective.

If we hope to fight illegal fishing,for example, we must strengthen monitoring, control and surveillance tools and their implementation. When we make inroads there, we know we’ll have a direct impact on tuna stock conservation. And because illegal fishing hinders our ability to capture accurate data on what is and isn’t being caught in the world’s oceans –be that target or non-target species– we cannot tackle by catch reduction without a focus on IUU activities.

That’s why we’ve chosen to take a holistic approach to the path toward sustainable tuna fisheries and defined these core issues as the focus.

At the Our Ocean Conference in September 2014, you said that electronic reporting and monitoring are critical for combatting IUU, and that consequently over the next two years, ISSF will invest US$600,000to help implement these tools and establish best practices. Could you give readers an idea of how successful the initiative has been for the fisheries sectors of the selected countries,and whether more investments are forthcoming?

The gravity and complexity of illegal fishing demands that we tackle it from multiple angles. Electronic monitoring and reporting (EM/ER) are critical components of our fight against IUU activities.When it comes to piloting, promoting and implementing EM/ER in tuna fisheries, our partners vary by region.

Included on the project I announced at the Our Ocean Conference are:

• Global Environment Facility through The Common Oceans Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction Tuna Project
• WWF
• Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
• Tuna vessels and related industry groups
• And RFMOs and other regional bodies, including national governments

Together, we have conducted successful electronic monitoring system (EMS)pilots in Fiji, Ghana and the Seychelles.Pilots have taken place on more than a dozen purse seine and longline vessels. Now that these technologies have proven themselves on working tuna vessels and even more groups are working to implement the technology in other countries, work to set standards for their use across all tuna RFMOs is the current focus. To that end, ISSF and partner research and findings have been disseminated and presented at RFMO meetings and collaborative,multi-partner side events.

With support from ISSF, the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, the Environmental Defense Fund, the PEW Foundation and the Nature Conservancy, there are currently 18 Pacific Island countries and territories implementing electronic reporting tools for fishers or observers. The level of implementation differs from country to country as some have just started their pilots and others have already committed to full implementation beginning in early 2018. It’s fair to say that EM has come a long way since the 2014 Our Oceans Conference.

This initiative is truly collaborative. Tobe successful, it requires the shared efforts and interest of governments,fleets, scientists and fishery managers. We’re especially pleased to have the partnership of vessels that are donating the use of their boats by volunteering to have these systems installed on board.

The latest ISSF ‘Status of the World Fisheries for Tuna’ report which was recently published (Nov 2017), summarises the status of 23 major commercial tuna stocks as well as the management measures adopted by the RFMOs, with specific reference to over fishing and by catch rates. To what extent have these management measures been successful in sustaining global tuna stocks? How does the ISSF work with RFMOs in furthering dialogue and action on these issues?

ISSF and its partners cooperate with,and support, Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs),and vigorously advocate to RFMO members for the adoption and implementation of science-based management measures so that tuna stocks and their ecosystems are managed comprehensively and sustainably.

We do this by attending all major RFMO meetings, submitting science based positions statements to RFMOs,presenting multi-partner side events on the latest tuna fisheries research, and in collaborative communications with other organisations through joint letters or media outreach. ISSF also submits its research to each RFMO Scientific Committee to help guide scientific assessments and recommendations made to the RFMOs, and participating companies advocate for specific priorities in their home countries including the distribution of 220 letters from participating companies in support of specific policy priorities last year. Participating companies are also required to submit vessel, species,size and catch data to RFMO science bodies because those bodies depend on complete and accurate supporting data for scientific analysis and stock assessments.

We focus on priority milestones we’d like a given RFMO to achieve before their meetings where decisions are made. Last year, ISSF priorities were reflected in 45 adopted RFMO conservation measures or policies. Are cord I’m extremely proud of. And in 2017, we saw more progress as RFMOs continued on the path to adopt and implement harvest control rules for the conservation of tuna stocks and accelerated the use of modern technologies to better monitor fishing activities at sea and strengthen data collection from fleets.

Our advocacy priorities include: the implementation of rigorous harvest strategies, including harvest control rules (HCRs) and reference points; effective management of fleet capacity,including developing mechanisms that support developing coastal state engagement in the fishery; science based FAD management & non entangling FAD designs; increased RFMO member country compliance with all measures adopted, and greater transparency of processes reviewing member compliance with measures; strengthened Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) measures and increased observer coverage, including through modern technologies such as electronic monitoring and e-reporting (EM/ER); and adoption of best-practice by catch mitigation and shark conservation and management measures.

One of the most recent RFMO conferences that ISSF took part in was the ICCAT meeting from 11- 22 November 2017. One of the major issues raised at that meeting was persistent gaps in the implementation of corrective measures, such as the continuing need for better data reporting on FAD and log sets in the Atlantic. What are some of the key programmes and activities that the ISSF has planned throughout 2018 in terms of advocating for concrete action to lessen the gaps?

We were disappointed that more progress was not made to address the gaps in compliance with FAD data reporting during the ICCAT Meeting.We asked that ICCAT address these deficiencies through requiring a combination of clearer definitions and clearer instructions on required data and submission forms. We will continue to call, as we do for all RFMOs, for the strengthening of reporting and data collection. We also continue to try to improve the ways in which data collection and reporting are transmitted and used. As mentioned, we’ve supported the development and implementation of electronic monitoring systems and also electronic logbooks as a way for vessels to enter and transmit data directly to authorities. These types of systems will help RFMOs like ICCAT better integrate technology into their data reporting systems to help fill in gaps.

Apart from the RFMOs, who are some of the other key stake holders that the ISSF dialogues with, many of whom will have overlapping areas of interest?

In 2016, RFMO statements from over 13 NGOs showed alignment on 80% of topics for which ISSF also advocates.One of our principles as an organisation is that we cannot create meaningful change on our own. Collaboration is key, which is why it is such a focus of our efforts to partner with other organisations to drive change on the water. We hold and participate in meetings with industry participants outside of ISSF, and also engage with environmental NGOs to discuss issues to find alignment, and connect with other NGOs in advance of each and every RFMO meeting. In March of 2017, ISSF joined with over 80 like-minded NGOs, tuna retailers, industry/fleet associations and food service companies in a joint letter to the tuna RFMOs (IOTC, IATTC,ICCAT and WCPFC) advocating for the adoption of harvest strategies and use of electronic monitoring and reporting tools on board vessels. Collaborative efforts like this letter are one of the many ways that ISSF joins with all key stake holders in fisheries sustainability to advocate for issues that we all believe are fundamental to sustainable management.

Outreach to the vessel community and the associations is especially critical. We cannot count on continued progress toward our goal of growing implementation of science-based sustainability practices on the water without engaging fishers and vessel owners.

It has been estimated that IUU fishing activities cost the global economy some US$23 billion. Could you describe what the ISSF’s multi-pronged approach consists of, and what the short-term and long-term targets are?

ISSF participating companies commit to a suite of conservation measures to help eliminate IUU fishing. Further,these companies are put under a rigorous third party compliance audit to make sure they’re following those conservation measures and are a part of the solution when it comes to IUU.

We have worked with the industry to make permanent and unique vessel identifiers, like IMO numbers,a standard for all vessels. We also created our Pro Active Vessel Register(PVR), a database that tracks vessel implementation of best practices,which is also subject to rigorous third party auditing.

Examples of ISSF conservation measures combating IUU:

• Requiring that all tuna processors, traders, importers and marketers refrain from transactions with vessels that are not flagged to the relevant RFMO member or cooperating non-member (unless the country has applied for such status);
• Refrain from transactions in tuna caught by vessels on a tuna RFMO IUU list;
• Refrain from transactions in tuna caught by vessels that are not on the authorised vessel record of the relevant RFMO;
• Refrain from transactions with vessels of the size subject to listing on the relevant RFMO’s authorised vessel record and capable of being registered by IMO, but which have not registered with IMO and received an IMO or UVI;
• ISSF participating companies are committed to achieving 100% observer coverage (human or electronic if proven to be effective) of purse seine vessels;
• See all measures here: https://iss-foundation.org/knowledge-tools/publicationspresentations/conservationmeasures-commitments/

We advocate for RFMOs to take action against the practice of IUU fishing via strengthening of monitoring, control and surveillance tools through observer systems, both human and electronic,among other science and data-based approaches.

How does the ISSF interact with the global marketplace, specifically with the major retailers?

The market plays a critical role in our efforts towards sustainable tuna fisheries. ISSF has continuously engaged in market outreach with retailers across Europe, North America and Africa, making sure that companies are engaging their suppliers and understand best practices with regards to tuna sustainability. In the U.S. and Europe,more than 30 buyers now include ISSF conservation measures and/or the ISSF Pro Active Vessel Register (PVR) in their tuna sustainability and sourcing considerations.

Six of the top 10, and 12 of the top 25 global retailers are incorporating ISSF conservation measures and/or the Pro Active Vessel Register in their seafood sourcing guidelines or policies.

How does the ISSF include the voice sand concerns of the millions of people around the world who live in coastal communities, and whose livelihoods are dependent on the health of fish stocks?

The preservation of tuna stocks is not only an economic issue but a food security issue as well. Millions of people rely on tuna as a major source of protein and entire coastal communities rely on tuna for their livelihood. By promoting best practices based on the best science, we believe that we are actively improving the way fisheries are managed around the globe, preserving this important natural resource on which so many communities rely.

In the vein of food security, we’ve devoted research dollars and efforts to what we call by catch retention pilots. Full retention of tunas and later use of non-target species is one way in which the wasteful practice of discarding fish at sea can be reduced. ISSF is working with many partners,including coastal nations, to better understand the potential for bycatch utilisation in tropical tuna purse seine fisheries. The ultimate objective of the work is to implement regional projects to understand market and other impacts of retained fish being landed,enhancing food security through the development of local markets for that fish. Projects in places such as the Solomon Islands and the Ivory Coast have already proven successful.

What, in your personal opinion, have been the biggest strides forward for the global tuna fishing industry in 2017?

This year has seen a lot of positive strides forward in the global tuna fishing industry. For instance, there’s been some good progress made to close governance gaps that exist in some of the RFMOs. IOTC, for example, just adopted its first partial fins-landed naturally attached measure for sharks. That was a gap in governance, and they took steps to close it. WCPFC’s decision to adopt a non-entangling FAD measure in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean was also a win in this category. All other RFMOs had a provision for the use of non-entangling FADs, which use special designs to help prevent the entanglement of sharks,turtles and other marine life, and WCPFC joined those ranks in 2017.

Additionally, the adoption of measures to increase the use of technology has been encouraging. The accelerated use of electronic monitoring systems is huge for improving data collection and reporting, and RFMOs made some good progress on that front in 2017.

We’re also happy that harvest control rules seem to be gaining traction in RFMOs. Harvest control rules set a threshold of stock health for when a certain action needs to be taken to protect a tuna stock. Those protective actions are predetermined, so there’s no back and forth politics required for the management body to spring into action to prevent over fishing of that given stock.

But the thing I am most pleased about,and that makes progress happen at a never increasing pace of change, is the greater consistency and number of stakeholder voices all actively calling for the same thing. Consistent voices from markets and NGOs lead industry to take action and add processor and vessel industry voices to markets and NGOs in government advocacy. As more and more constituents of more and more governments are united in calling for needed action, the political will of governments to adopt measures increases.

 

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