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Interview: New Tuna Industry NGO Want To Support RFMOs

The Seafood Summit 2009, held from February 1st to 3rd in San Diego, California, brought together global representatives of the seafood industry and conservation community to debate ways of making the seafood marketplace environmentally, socially and economically sustainable.

Susan Jackson, the President of the recently founded International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) was there participating on the panel “Beyond Bluefin: Science and management of non-bluefin tuna species”, and shared some of her impressions of the event.

Atuna.com: What are your views about the outcomes of the panel?

Susan Jackson: It was a good group, we had science represented, Dr. Murdoch McAllister and Mark Stevens did a great job by giving the NGO perspective on ways to think about tuna management and tuna fishing capacity. In my presentation, I presented how the industry believes that science should be the player saying how global tuna management must be done. 

The name of the panel is very interesting, since bluefin represents only a tiny part of the tuna catches in the world and nevertheless, it is always highlighted by the media. Was this contradiction addressed at the panel?

Not really, except when I brought it up in my presentation by showing that bluefin represents 2%, or even less, of total global tuna catches. So I said “We shouldn’t be talking about bluefin, and yet, we’ve mentioned it 14 times in the last 25 minutes”, just for you to have an idea in how hard it is to get away from it, even when you’re not supposed to be talking about it. Bluefin situation is concerning, even though irrelevant to the vast majority of the tuna industry.

How was the ISSF presented at the Seafood Summit?

I didn’t talk about the Foundation in San Diego, for the very reason that we will be officially launching it, probably, in 4 to 6 six weeks. We are still closing partnerships and therefore, we still need some more time to announce our organization.

Should scientific recommendation play an important role in tuna management?

It’s pretty well recognized that the scientists supporting the RFMOs have the best data out there regarding the tuna stocks. Sure it can be improved, and the industry can help science to improve as well; however, scientists are as good as it gets, so the problem is in the fact that the RFMO’s stopped following scientific recommendation. So our position is that the industry needs to follow science.

Was there any new concept/idea proposed at the Summit that could improve scientific compliance on tuna management?

The common goal is to have the RFMOs become effective again. We are not trying to go around them, or make them irrelevant, it’s quite the opposite. Making RFMO’s more effective is a way for the industry to become more engaged on the RFMOs and follow the scientific recommendations, so individual nations can also have an interest in science, allowing the RFMOs to put conservation measures in practice. Another point mentioned by me was how industry should enhance science by reporting more data and doing greater investments in research and technology, taking a more proactive role in this matter as well.