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Fiji Albacore First Tuna Longline Fisheries To Become MSC Certified Fiji, January 10, 13

The Fiji Tuna Boat Owners Association has received certification from the Marine Stewardship Council for Albacore caught by the surface long-line method.

Radio Australia presenter Cathy Harper interviewed Russell Dunham, Fiji Tuna Boat Owners Association and Seremaia Tuqiri, Fisheries policy officer World Wildlife Fund South Pacific.

Harper: The Australian supermarket giant Coles recently pledged to stop selling tuna products by 2015 that are caught using unsustainable methods. Moves like this suggest that consumer concern about over-fishing is having an impact on the way businesses operate. The Fiji Tuna Boat Owners Association certainly hopes so, because it’s just received certification from the Marine Stewardship Council, which officially recognizes that its albacore is sustainable fished.

Dunham: We are the first long-line fishery in the world to be certified with MSC. There are some other albacore fisheries worldwide, particularly New Zealand and Canada that have been, or North America, that have been certified but they're what we call a surface troll fishery.

Russell Dunham is the secretary of the Fiji Tuna Boat Owners Association. Its 27 boat owners catch about 3,000-4,000 tons of albacore tuna a year, using the surface long-line method. That means they’re able to target Albacore and there’s not much damage to other species through by-catch. And boat owners are hoping their sustainable methods will translate into a more desirable product.

Dunham: We’re hoping it gets better prices for our albacore. But I certainly am confident it will create more market opportunities for us; because there are quite a lot of buyers now looking for certified tuna. And it’s a good opportunity for us to tap into that market now. But a lot of it is driven by retailers and supermarket chains in Europe and more so in the US recently and also Australia.

Harper: When you say it’s driven by the supermarkets are they looking for a fish that they can sell as sustainably fished? Or is it something else they want about the albacore.
Dunham: I think essentially it gets down to ethical issues. And a lot of the supermarket chains are being a bit more responsible now and are saying that they would only like to buy sustainably caught tuna. And albacore is one of those tunas, particularly in our zone, that met those requirements to say that they are being sustainably caught.Harper: The World Wildlife Fund South Pacific worked on the certification process.
Seremaia Tuqiri is their fisheries policy officer, based in Suva.

Tuqiri: It recognizes that the fishing operation and the fishing gear being used by the fishing vessels of the Fiji Tuna Boat Owners Association is considered to be sustainable in the sense that they use things like circle hooks for example, that tries at it’s best to avoid catching marine turtles and it meets certain obligations under the Marine Stewardship Council so that it gets certified.

Harper: What does it mean for the consumer? Does it mean anything for people who are wanting to buy fish, tuna particularly, that is sustainably caught?

Tuqiri: I think they can be assured of the fact that the fish that they are buying. that has been caught by the vessels belonging to the Fiji Boat Owners Association is observing best practice as far as sustainable fishing is concerned. It’s not carrying out overfishing. It’s fishing within an area, a specified zone, which is the exclusive economic zone of Fiji; and not outside of that.
Harper: How would a consumer know, if they went to a supermarket or a shop or a market and bought some tuna, how would they know that it’s from a sustainably fished area using sustainable methods?Tuqiri: The Marine Strewardship Council has a logo a fish logo and you can see that in some of the products, particularly canned and packaged products which says “MSC certified” and that indicates that it’s a certified product under the MSC ensuring best practice and a well-managed fishery.