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VIET SEAFOOD

ISSF Offers “Company In Compliance” Status For Smaller Tuna Traders United States, September 2, 13

Small processors and traders in the tuna industry are offered the chance to join the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) as a ‘Company in Compliance’ as part of its initiative to encourage not only large players in the industry to follow its sustainable criteria. It is part of ISSF’s ambition to be the global tuna industry standard on sustainability for all companies involved within the tuna supply chain from fishing to consumer.

Carrying an annual application fee of USD 25,000 ‘associate membership’ is said by ISSF’s International Seafood Sustainability Trade Association (ISSA) to allow for processors or traders generating less than USD 50 million in tuna revenue the chance to sign up.

Thomas Kraft of Norpac Fisheries Export said: “I am glad to see that the ISSF is making a category available for smaller industry participants to be part of the larger dialogue.

“I am concerned that the ‘reduced’ fee for membership remains highly regressive, in that it is quite large in relation to the total revenue of the companies that would qualify, in contrast to the revenues of the 22 companies currently involved.”

ISSA states that by confirming compliance with all ISSF conservation measures and commitments, the ‘Company in Compliance’ status will be given on its website to those who join, companies can also use this status in communication with their customers to display their involvement with tuna sustainability.

Other benefits the ISSA claims to give members is the ability to use the ‘aboutsustainabletuna.org’ label on packaging and marketing materials, along with active participation in ISSF advocacy and outreach efforts. On reviewing this ‘aboutsustainabletuna.org’ website however, no reference to this label was found.

In order to apply, companies complete an application form and submit the relevant fee. The ISSF reviews the applicant’s ability to comply with ISSF requirements. The company then enters into a six month period in which it must demonstrate its compliance with ISSF conservation resolutions.

Reviews completed by the applicants themselves showing compliance are the only commitments outlined by the ISSA associated membership in return for the certification that all sustainable measures are met. The ISSA states that any membership can be terminated for failure to adhere to ISSF sustainability standards. This system of self-certification has also been used within the industry by the Earth Island Institute (EII) for dolphin safe certification; over 420 tuna companies have entered that program over the last 2 decades. All current ISSF members are also EII members.

There is no indication made by ISSF or ISSA to how this compliance will be verified. While ISSF reviews an applying company’s ability to comply with the requirements, it does not outline that adherence to the measure will be monitored after the initial six month period of demonstration by the member.
Earlier this year, a paper by the University of Wollongong, Australia, published in Marine Policy refers to an initiative by the tuna industry towards self-certification. It states: “Although there is no formal certification or audit scheme, by virtue of membership and a stated commitment to ISSF standards, companies can market seafood products while claiming to be environmentally responsible.”

According to ISSF, its objectives are to improve the sustainability of global tuna stocks by developing and implementing verifiable, science-based practices, commitments and international management measures that result in tuna fisheries meeting the MSC certification standard without conditions by 2018, and becoming the industry standard for vessel owners, traders , processors and marketers.
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