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Lack of impartiality a concern in the MSC Atlantic bluefin tuna certification process, says WWF

A premature MSC certification of Atlantic bluefin tuna would provide dangerous incentives to the market and consumers, warns WWF today.

Rome, Italy - A premature MSC certification of Atlantic bluefin tuna would provide dangerous incentives to the market and consumers warned WWF. As its formal objection against the first certification of Atlantic bluefin tuna continues, the Accredited Conformity Assessment Body (CAB) conducting the assessment is called out for lack of impartiality. [1]

The iconic Atlantic bluefin tuna was on the brink of collapse a decade ago, and is only just starting to show positive signs of recovery. So given this, WWF is extremely concerned by the unjustified high scores that the CAB Control Union assigned to the performance indicators of the fishery currently undergoing the MSC certification process. 

WWF today reveals that Control Union has not made a single change in the scoring in response to stakeholders’ concerns expressed in the Notice of Objection. WWF questions the management of impartiality by the CAB as illustrated during  the independent audit by the ASI (Assurance Service International), the MSC assurance partner. The audit [3] has resulted in a red flag being raised for numerous points, for instance, Control Union assured the fishery that it would be the first bluefin tuna fishery to receive a MSC certification when the assessor is required to be independent, objective and impartial [4].

WWF maintains that Control Union have too frequently deferred to their expert judgement rather than take a precautionary approach [2]. 

Giuseppe Di Carlo, WWF’s spokesperson said: 

“WWF and other stakeholders have advocated for scientifically rigorous, transparent, and credible assessments within the MSC system for some years and we have still not seen significant improvements. Pressure from the industry to get the first sustainable bluefin tuna on the market risks there being a premature certification, and will sadly come at the expense of the species.”

Notes to editors:


[1] On 22 January, WWF objected to the certification process, here.
MSC press release on objections from WWF and other stakeholders, here


[2] Accredited conformity assessment bodies (CABs), like Control Union,  that undertake assessments must be impartial and act objectively and independently of their clients. CABs must use sound science and specific knowledge to justify all scoring, and where data is lacking, they must adopt the precautionary principle as the basis for decisions. However, in the case of the Atlantic bluefin tuna fishery, WWF is concerned about the reluctance of the CAB to assess fishery management and sustainability in a precautionary and critical manner. The CAB gave the bluefin tuna fishery unreasonably high scores for its sustainability performance using non-specified “expert judgment” and refusing to adopt a precautionary approach where data were inconclusive or lacking. Details of the reprimand can be found here  (http://www.asi-assurance.org/s/assessment/a1P1H000002xXeNUAU/a20171219089LINK ASI report).

[3] WWF’s statement on MSC and the areas of reform that are needed from 2018 is here

[4] The MSC certification could be a dangerous incentive for bluefin tuna consumption on the market and could represent a misleading message to consumers. As stated in principle one of the certification, the MSC label of the first Atlantic bluefin tuna fishery would implicitly endorse that the stock is healthy and well managed, opening the door to other bluefin tuna fisheries undertaking the same process. On-going overfishing and illegal fishing in bluefin tuna calls for a more cautious approach: a recent investigation on illegal trade in bluefin tuna discovered an international operation worth €12 million per year involving Spanish companies, French and Italian ports, and Maltese bluefin tuna farms. This adds to the many bluefin tuna seizings by police forces in Italy, Malta and North African countries.  In addition, the increase in quotas agreed by ICCAT’s fishing nations in 2017 (up to 36.000 tonnes in 2020) is predicted to have a negative impact on the abundance of the stock in the longer term. (See WWF media release).