This global assessment has provided unparalleled information on the state of sustainability of all tropical tuna stocks around the world.
Spanish Tuna Association Achieves Global First for MSC Certification in All Four Oceans
Spanish ministers, fishing industry representatives and marine scientists gathered in Madrid to recognise the simultaneous certification of six separate tuna stocks fished by the Association of Large Tuna Freezers (AGAC) to the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) international standard for sustainable fishing.
The certification applies to yellowfin tuna in the Eastern and Western Pacific and in the Atlantic; skipjack tuna in the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans; and bigeye tuna also in the Western Pacific. It is the first time that a fishing operation has achieved certification for operations in all four oceans. It is also the first purse seine fishery including both free school and Fish Aggregating Device (FAD) sets to achieve certification in the Atlantic Ocean.
This achievement is the result of more than 10 years’ work to improve the sustainability of AGAC’s operations.
AGAC entered its entire fishing operation, covering 12 tropical tuna stocks, for MSC assessment in 2020. Of these, fishing operations on six stocks were found to meet the MSC’s rigorous requirements for certification. The certification applies to approximately half the total catch of AGAC’s fleet of 44 purse seine vessels and 3% of the world’s tuna harvest.
This achievement is the result of more than 10 years’ work to improve the sustainability of AGAC’s operations, including a Fisheries Improvement Project (FIP) started in 2016. In 2012 AGAC introduced a Code of Good Practice (CGP) to address impacts on non-target species, including the adoption of non-entangling and biodegradable FADs. Compliance with the CGP is verified annually by the independent scientific organization AZTI. Onboard and electronic observation is in place for all fishing trips.
Certification was in part made possible by contributions from more than 2,000 crew working on the AGAC fleet who contributed ideas on effective solutions to sustainability challenges. AGAC members also made a total investment in new technologies, operations and research of more than €17 million.
This global assessment has provided unparalleled information on the state of sustainability of all tropical tuna stocks around the world. AGAC has committed to implement action plans to resolve weaknesses identified for both the certified and uncertified stocks.
“Among all the activities of the blue economy, sustainable fishing hold a privileged place: we must frame it as part of our balance with maritime-coastal ecosystems and differentiate it from illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing and overfishing, which constitute serious threats to the health of the ocean," said Teresa Ribera, the Third Vice President of the Government and Minister for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge.
"Fighting against these threats also means making visible and rewarding those who understand sustainability and care for the environment as a commitment to the future,” Ribera added.
“From the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, we value very positively this action of the tuna association AGAC that reinforces the commitment of its fleet with sustainability and is fully aligned with the objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy," saidAlicia Villauriz, Secretary General of Fishery.
"There is no doubt that initiatives such as this, contribute to consolidate the leadership of Spain in the conservation and sustainable use of marine resources, particularly regarding a resource such as tuna, so important for the food supply of our population.”
“AGAC’s members are first and foremost interested in maintaining the health of the resources on which our livelihood depends. Achieving MSC certification after so much work, investment and effort on the part of all the OPAGAC-AGAC family encourages us to continue these efforts,” said Julio Morón, managing director of AGAC.
“The certification of the AGAC association fleet is a milestone for the sustainability of tuna, both due to the number of vessels involved, the fishing operations considered, and the different tuna populations analyzed simultaneously. We congratulate AGAC for this decade of exhaustive work to demonstrate best practices in tuna fishing and for its long-term commitment to preserving this important resource,” said Laura Rodríguez, MSC Program Director Spain & Portugal.
The Association of Large Tuna Freezers (A.G.A.C.) was established on July 4, 1980, as an association of owners of tuna freezer vessels of at least 750 registered tons TRB.
AGAC was formed by five companies, although in a few years this was increased to seven, with the aim of representing the interests of a restless group dedicated to the capture of tropical tunas with a global vision that this fishery has since then demonstrated. AGAC is currently formed of nine groups of shipowners being registered in the Nacional Registry of Associations, section 1, number 617556.