Cook Islands Fishery Improvement Program

Last update: January 2017


Welcome to the website for the Fishery Improvement Project for the Cook Islands Islands pelagic longline tuna fishery. The improvement project follows guidance on comprehensive Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs) as defined by the Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions (CASS). 


Participants in and co-leads of the FIP: Anova Food USA, Luen Thai Fishing Venture

Public evaluations:  An MSC pre-assessment report is available in the documents section; an SFP FishSource profile evaluation is available from; and other evaluations e.g., by MBAq Seafood Watch and WWF are also available. This FIP is also listed on

A public workplan is available from this website in the document section. The public workplan includes scoring estimates for all Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) performance indicators, as determined through an MSC pre-assessment conducted by an accredited MSC Conformity Assessment Body. Activities in the workplan are designed to address all performance indicators that scored <80, and a timeline and budget are provided for all activities as required in the CASS guidance for FIPs to be considered “moving towards sustainability”.

Public reporting of progress against the workplan activities and milestones, via periodic updates, are posted on this website in the document section below.

The FIP scope is for Western and Central Pacific Bigeye tuna and is a continuation of the Albacore and Yellowfin FIPs caught by the same fishery. The Cook Islands Albacore and Yellowfin tuna Longline fishery became MSC certified in June 2015 and February 2017 respectively. The full MSC assessment reports can be found here. Bigeye is considered a main retained species in the full MSC assessment. Therefore, the MSC full assessment report is used as a pre-assessment for this FIP.


2. FIP Progress – Chronology of Activities and Progress in Implementing Workplan Activities
The following is a description of project activities since inception of the FIP in 2012.

2012- 2013: Luen Thai Fishing Ventures launched the FIP in 2012, starting with requesting a pre-assessment study for Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification of the Cook Islands Pacific albacore and Central and Western Pacific yellowfin longline fishery. This pre-assessment was completed in April 2013. Anova Food USA later joined as a second FIP leader in June 2013.

 2012 (December) The regional fisheries management organization Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission adopts a formal limit reference point for bigeye and yellowfin tuna stocks. This is documented in the meeting report for the WCPFC 9th commission meeting available here, see paragraph 269, where WCPFC9 adopted SC8 para 298 recommendation, which was to adopt 20% unfished SB for the 4 WCPO tropical tuna stocks. This constitutes an SFP Stage 4 result – delivering improvement in policies and practices.

2013 (March)- the catch sector Luen Thai Fishing Venture adopts a company policy banning the retention of sharks or fishing gear and methods to target sharks. View the policy here.

2013 (September): The process of MSC full assessment for South Pacific Albacore begins.

2014 (February): FIP Scoping and Workplan adopted (found in the document section below)

2014 (May): FIP participants join the MSC alignment group and participation in the 1st meeting of the group.  The WCPO Tuna MSC Alignment group is comprised of client groups of fisheries certified and under assessment against the Marine Stewardship Countil (MSC) standard and or participants of Fishery Improvement Projects (FIP) for fisheries for albacore, bigeye and yellowfin tuna in the Convention Area of the Western and Central Pacific Commission (WCPFC) and other stakeholders. The Group’s purposes are to: 1) disseminate information and 2) coordinate and align policy activities relevant to MSC client groups and participants of FIPs with an aim to improve sub-regional and regional management systems for fisheries for Albacore, Bigeye and Yellowfin tunas in the Convention Area of the WCPFC.

A report of the meeting can be viewed here.

To visit the group’s website click here.

2014 (April – August)  Preparation of materials for capacity-building ‘train-the-trainer’ program to enable Cook Islands staff to conduct longline fisher training, including in: (i) Cook Islands longline rules, (ii) proper completion of Secretariat of the Pacific Community logbook forms, (iii) species identification training, to improve the quality of logbook data, and (iv) handling-and-release best practices for sea turtles, elasmobranchs (sharks and their relatives), cetaceans and seabirds. Training materials are posted here.

2014 (June): Anova Food LLC and LTFV sign joint letter to WCPFC Secretariat advocating for better management measures. Seafood companies and trade association active in the WCPO submitted a joint letter requesting WCPFC to ensure updated terms of reference are developed for the third Management Objectives Workshop (MOW3), and that every effort is made to ensure MOW3 goes ahead this year, prior to the annual meeting. In the letter signatories request WCPFC to ensure candidate target reference points and harvest control rules to be developed for albacore, bigeye and yellowfin, in addition to planned continued work on skipjack, for consideration by MOW3 during 2014 and for consideration for adoption by WCPFC11 in December 2014. The letter can be viewed here.

2014 (August): 1st train-the-trainer workshop convened –  The workshop report is available here and workshop materials are available here.

2014 (September): Traceability Audit for LTFV Cook Islands supply chain. An independent audit of the traceability system in place for the supply chain for the Luen Thai Fishing Venture vessels participating in the Cook Islands longline fishery was completed and a public report can be viewed here.

2014 (December): Participation to the 2nd MSC alignment group meeting. A report of the meeting can be viewed here.

2015 (June)- Albacore becomes MSC certified. Yellowfin tuna remains in a FIP. The public certification report can be found here. All certification documents can be downloaded here.

2015 (October) – FIP Participants signed a joint letter organized by the WCPO Tuna MSC Alignment Group sent to WCPFC CCMs – see Joint letter of 8 October 2015 submitted to WCPFC Members here.

2016 (January) – Participants prepare updated training materials for train-the-trainer workshops, and plan for a refresher workshop to be held in April 2016.

2016 (April)- 2nd train-the-trainer workshop convened. A summary of the training can be read here. The purpose of the workshop was to train Luen Thai Fishing Venture (LTFV) staff who in turn will train fishing base managers to instruct longline captains in methods to handle and release at-risk species, government longline rules, LTFV policy banning the use of gear designs and methods to target sharks and banning the retention of sharks including shark fins, proper use of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community/Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency logbook form for pelagic longline fishers, and training in species identification to improve logbook entries.

2016 (May)-  FIP participants contribute to development of a WCPO Tuna MSC Alignment Group workplan and development of a 2016 annual short-term position statement to push for improvements with sub-regional (PNA, FFA) and regional (WCPFC) management systems.

2016 (October): FIP participants contribute to the WCPO Tuna MSC Alignment Group’s development of a list of highest priority achievements at the thirteenth regular session of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC13) related to addressing deficits in harvest strategies – which individual participants of the Alignment Group are to raise to the attention of delegations to WCPFC (see the Alignment Group’s harvest strategy priority actions here).

2016 (December): FIP participants attend meetings with coordinators of the WCPO Tuna MSC Alignment Group to discuss 2016 activities and plan 2017 activities, focusing on addressing harvest strategy deficits for WCPO tuna stocks. The 2017 Action plan can be read here.

2016 (December) – During the 2016 annual session convened in December, WCPFC13 made some progress in implementing elements of the initial WCPFC harvest strategy workplan, and adopted a revised workplan. The WCPFC13 summary report is available here and the updated WCPFC harvest strategy workplan is available here.

2017 (February) – FIP participants contributed to developing an Alignment Group 2017 position statement, and co-signed the statement, which the WCPFC secretariat distributed to WCPFC parties on 14 Feb. The position statement can be found here.

2017 (February) – Yellowfin tuna becomes MSC certified through a scope extension and expedited assessment. The certification report can be found here.

2017 (February) – Bigeye tuna (5% of the catch) still remains in a FIP. The baseline score can be found here.

2017 (April) – The Action Plan for Bigeye tuna FIP is finalized and can be found here.

2017 (August): New stock assessment report for WCPO bigeye tuna is published and available here. It indicates that, based on a new understanding of the stock structure, life history parameters, and recent recruitment, the stock is determined to not be overfished and overfishing not occurring.

2017 (August): The 13th meeting of the WCPFC scientific committee has met all milestones set out in the current WCPFC harvest strategy workplan (updated at WCPFC13, Dec. 2016). Click here for a summary of how each harvest strategy workplan milestone for bigeye and yellowfin tuna have been met at SC13, and click here for the current WCPFC harvest strategy workplan.

2017 (December): WCPFC at their 14th regular session adopted a new tropical tuna measure, which increased bigeye tuna catch limits, established an inter-sessional working group to develop a unified shark measure for adoption in 2018, directed their Scientific Committee to consider options for expanding the sea turtle measure to include all pelagic longline fisheries, adopted a replacement seabird bycatch measure, adopted a measure on marine pollution basically emphasizing existing prohibitions under MARPOL Annex V, and other measures. Click here for a summary report of WCPFC 14 outcomes. and click here for a press release issued by the WCPFC secretariat’s Executive Director and the WCPFC Chair summarizing the key outcomes of WCPFC14.