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MSC Open Its Program For Data-Limited Tuna Fisheries

The Marine Stewardship Council has published Version 2 of its Fisheries Assessment Methodology (FAM).

The revised methodology brings the assessment of fisheries with data limitations, particularly common in small scale and developing country fisheries, into the heart of the MSC programme by fully integrating the Risk Based Framework (RBF) into the FAM.

The MSC is committed to ensuring its programme and the associated benefits that come with certification are accessible to all fisheries and the RBF allows certifiers to use a structured framework to determine if a data-limited fishery is operating sustainably. Developed over the past five years with stakeholder input and trial fishery assessments, the RBF is two tiered, starting with a qualitative, stakeholder-driven process where the certifier gathers expert opinion including local ecological knowledge. If necessary, this is followed by a semi-quantitative assessment based on the productivity of the species concerned and their susceptibility to fishing gear. Far from lowering the standard, the RBF methodologies are more risk-averse than ‘normal’ assessments; insisting on additional precaution to offset the shortage of quantitative data.

Several fisheries have already started full assessments using the Risk Based Framework including: the South Brittany sardine fishery, Suriname Seabob shrimp, and St. Helena tuna and the North Menai Strait mussel fishery.

MSC’s Project Manager for Developing World Fisheries, Amanda Stern-Pirlot says: “Integrating the RBF into the Fisheries Assessment Methodology is the culmination of five years’ work at the MSC, something that underlines our commitment to improving access to the MSC programme, particularly in developing countries. This revised methodology will allow fisheries which are data-limited in some areas, but who can nonetheless demonstrate they are operating sustainably to be assessed against the MSC standard and, hopefully get certified to enjoy the same benefits as enjoyed by larger, more data rich fisheries.”