Electronic Monitoring and the MSC Standard 3.0 in Korea’s Largest Tuna Fisheries

Coordinated efforts in Korea advancing sustainability in largest tuna fisheries

Seoul, Republic of Korea — Last month, four of Korea’s largest and most influential tuna companies came together for the second annual Korean Roundtable for Sustainable Tuna Fishing. Participating members included Dongwon Ind, SAJO, Silla and Dongwon Fisheries, which collectively represent about 45% of Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Certified or In-assessment tuna and tuna-like species caught by Korean-flagged vessels — roughly 140,000 metric tons of seafood.

The second Roundtable was a joint effort of Ocean Outcomes and MSC Korea, with sponsorship and logistical support provided by the Korea Overseas Fisheries Association (KOFA). Core topics of the Roundtable discussions included updated requirements in the MSC Standard 3.0, the recent developments in observer requirements from end markets such as Walmart and Sam’s Club, and Regional Fishery Management Organization (RFMO) advocacy processes to encourage harvest strategy adoption for high seas tuna fisheries.

“Last year, our Roundtable secured the voice of key Korean companies to join 118 other key global tuna supply chain stakeholders in calling on the members of WCPFC to improve the management of key tuna stocks in the region,” said Doohyun Park, Korea Fishery Improvement Manager at Ocean Outcomes.

“This year, we aim to do more — expanding Korean uptake of electronic monitoring to improve transparency and more accurately assess fishing impacts on other species and the ecosystem — keys to ensuring the sustainability of tuna fisheries.”

On May 1, 2023, the MSC launched their Fisheries Standard 3.0, with an entirely new section specific to RMFOs — titled Section SE. The updated Standard includes a new Evidence Requirements Framework Tool, which will guide how assessors must more robustly evaluate the quality of information being submitted to certify a fishery. As a result, Korea’s MSC Certified and In-assessment tuna fisheries will soon be required to have effective monitoring systems in place, and demonstrate their independent observation of catches.

The updated Standard preceded an announcement in mid-June from Walmart and Sam’s Club requiring stronger standards aimed at improving transparency and data gathering in the tuna supply chain. Both companies will require tuna suppliers, by 2027, to source exclusively from (1) vessels that have 100% on-water observation (electronic monitoring or human observer), and (2) fisheries not using any high seas transshipment unless the transshipment activity is covered by 100% on-water observation (EM or human observer).

“Korean offshore fisheries recognize the importance of sustainable fishing practices. But they now need proper information, training and cooperative strategies on how to implement these practices. The Korean Roundtable for Sustainable Tuna Fishing provides an ideal forum for Korea’s leading tuna companies to work to address updated sustainability requirements of global markets,” said Andy Yi of MSC Korea.

And the Roundtable has already sparked such action: each Dongwon Ind, SAJO, Silla and Dongwon Fisheries are now participating in a government pilot project on electronic monitoring and each have agreed to support the application of MSC Standard 3.0.

“Future Roundtable meetings will continue to provide a forum where Korean tuna companies can work together to collectively call for better management and fishing of key tuna stocks, both at the national and RFMO levels. As momentum grows, we hope to work more closely with Roundtable partners in their key tuna markets — Japan, the EU and the US — in order to improve both environmental and social aspects of Korea’s tuna fisheries,” added Doohyun.

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