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Self-certification Eco–labels No Reliable Basis For PNG Tuna Products

The board of Papua New Guinea’s fisheries authority has announced that it will recognize the United Nations’ FAO “guidelines for the eco labeling of fish and fishery products from marine capture fisheries,” noting that the MSC certification currently meets this high standard. At the same time, they warned for unreliable self-certifications schemes active within the market and their tuna fisheries.

Following a meeting on June 7 in Lae, PNG, the PNG National Fisheries Authority (NFA) stated that it considers it vitally important that consumers worldwide are correctly informed about the level of sustainability a seafood eco-label represents in terms of sustainable tuna management and its effect on the overall eco-system.  In order to maintain the confidence of consumers in PNG tuna products, the board wants in the future all eco-labels used for tuna caught in its waters to meet the FAO guidelines. The authority is responsible for the management of at least 15% of the world’s tuna, which is caught in its waters.
The public notice outlined: “The NFA board noted many self-certification schemes in the market today are increasingly being shown as not being a reliable basis for a trustworthy eco-label,” while a recent report by the Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security (ANCORS) looking into tuna eco-labeling puts serious question marks on the reliability and integrity of self-certification eco-label programs.
For the last 2 decades many tuna processing and fishing companies globally have taken part in self-certification activities to demonstrate to their consumers that their tuna is “environmental friendly” in some way or other, showing a variety of eco-labels on their tuna cans. Also the US based Earth Island Institute (EII) depends on  self-certification by captains as a confirmation that the vessels on its ‘dolphin safe’ list do not set nets on schools of dolphins associated with tuna. Captains also self-certify that no dolphin is killed or hurt on their fishing trip. None of these self-certification eco-labels meet the FAO guidelines, since they lack independent third party verification, being an essential condition.
It is unclear from the NFA statement what the consequences will be for local tuna industry players of this recognition of the FAO guidelines, and discouragement towards the use of self-certifications schemes currently active within PNG tuna fisheries.
PNG is one of the eight PNA Pacific island nations. The PNA free school skipjack fishery is the world’s first tuna seiner fisheries to obtain the MSC certification.