Seafood Ecolabel and Tuna

Seafood Eco-label aims to ensure the sustainability of seafood through consumers' purchase decision. Many eco-labels compete with one another, asserting their own advantages.

It is an acceptable intent to promote sustainably managed fisheries through eco-label scheme, but it is inappropriate to apply the scheme to all fisheries. It is quite clear if we take tuna as an example. Highly migratory tuna is caught in many countries through various fishing methods. Even if a specific tuna fishery is certified as an eco-label candidate, the sustainability of this specific tuna resource can not be secured if other tuna fisheries do not observe the required international management measures for the specific tuna.

To conser ve and manage tuna resources for sustainability, all related countries and industries utilizing the resources need to cooperate to implement managing measures, and only by doing so, effective result should be attained. The sustainability is not attained through partial efforts by a single tuna fishing country or tuna fishing industry. This is why the Regional Fisheries Management Organization (RFMO) is established in each ocean and takes responsibility on conservation and management of tuna resources.

Furthermore, tuna caught by Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fisher y should be kept out from all markets of the world all together. IUU fishery undermines the management measures implemented by the RFMOs and disturbs stock sustainability. Even if only a part of markets in the world keep out such illegal products, IUU fisher y can use the markets without any regulations to eliminate IUU products. Then, it is impossible to eliminate IUU fishery completely.

The use of seafood eco-label is left in the hands of distributors; therefore it is impossible to keep out all IUU tuna out of the world markets all together by the ecolabel. On the other hand, the RFMO identifies an IUU fishing nation when such country does not implement the management measures adopted by the RFMO. Then, the harvests by such country can be kept out of the markets of the world. If this mechanism is definitely functional, the sustainability of tuna resources can be secured.

The problem occurs when the RFMO loses or weakens its management capacity. The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) was once held in doubt with regard to its capability to manage Atlantic Bluefin Tuna, but it has successfully recovered its capability by implementing strict management measures.

Currently, the management capability of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) is in question. Due to the difference of opinions between the distant water fishing countries and coastal island countries, the WCPFC has failed to stop overfishing of bigeye tuna stock.

At the upcoming annual meeting in December, the WCPFC needs to adopt an effective management plan to secure sustainable tuna resources in the areas it manages, while overcoming the difference of opinions among member countries. (This is an excerpt from the article in
Minato Fisheries Daily.)

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