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From left to right, Jon Uría, President of OPAGAC, Luis Planas, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and Julio Morón, Managing Director of OPA

Spanish tuna fleet grouped in OPAGAC warns about illegal fleets and unfair competition

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Friday, November 25, 2022, 03:00 (GMT + 9)

  • The Spanish tuna fleet believes that after achieving good environmental sustainability of tuna fisheries, the social aspect must be faced
  • It exposes that socially responsible fleets with their crews bear 20% more costs than those that, in addition to disregarding the human factor, practice illegal fishing with impunity

The Spanish tuna fleet grouped in OPAGAC circumscribes the survival of the fleets responsible for tropical tuna to a position and definitive actions by Europe in the face of the illegal practices of other fleets that fish in the same fishing grounds.

"Neither do they make any effort to ensure environmental sustainability, nor do they hesitate to disregard the minimum decent working conditions of their crews and converting this cost saving into a factor of competitiveness is unacceptable in the European market", this is how Julio Morón has expressed himself, managing director of OPAGAC, during the celebration of the V National Tuna Congress that, in this edition, addresses the integral sustainability of this fishery.

In this regard, and according to the data provided by OPAGAC, social sustainability, that which affects the guarantee of decent working conditions, safety and well-being of the crews, already accounts for around 20% of the operational costs of the companies that have taken it on. According to Morón, "it is a cost that we are not going to give up, quite the contrary, to try to compete commercially with the illegal fleets that use it to make their product cheaper and that, paradoxically, is distributed in Europe."

In fact, according to the latest available data, European tuna imports from fleets in Southeast Asia and China – which are exempt from tariffs – have gone from representing 5% in 2012 to more than 50% today. In total, Europe imported more than 79,500 tonnes of tuna from these fleets last year for domestic consumption. In OPAGAC's opinion, the comparative injury with community production, which meets all legal requirements, is abysmal. According to this organization, the application of Convention 188 of the International Labor Organization (ILO), already in force, should be required of all imports into the community market, to guarantee that European citizens do not consume fish from ships "with slaves on board ” or in which the minimum social conditions established by the ILO are not respected.

As expressed by the Spanish tuna fleet during the congress held today, once very acceptable levels of biological sustainability of tropical tuna have been reached (86% of world tuna catches come from populations that are at healthy levels, according to ISSF), It is time to face social sustainability. According to the fleet, if Europe does not do so, it will lose its weight and consequently its food sovereignty over this fishery product, one of the most consumed by Europeans, and will depend on third countries and, furthermore, with a workforce in conditions far removed from the European minimum standards.

Thus, and according to data provided by the fleet, the average cost of a medium tuna vessel (carrying capacity of 1,250 tons) is around 11 million euros per year (fuel, maintenance, technological equipment, supplies, berths and expenses). social) and this figure can reach 15 million in ships with a greater cargo capacity (1,750 tons). In addition, it is necessary to take into account, points out the fleet, the ballast that the increase in the price of fuel is assuming, around 175%.

In the case of tuna vessels, for example, Taiwanese or Philippine, fleets characterized by their opacity, the latest data that is known suggests that their costs are divided by at least two.

Thus, a Taiwanese ship with a cargo capacity of 1,600 tons would have costs of 2.6 million euros and this amount would be 1.3 million in the case of a Philippine ship with a 650-ton cargo capacity.

Modern slavery in the fishing sector

The ILO estimates that 128,000 people are in a situation of modern slavery on board fishing vessels, according to its report Global Estimates of Modern Slavery Forced Labor and Forced Marriage (September 2022). The fishermen describe illnesses, physical injuries, and psychological and sexual abuse among the extreme violations they face, the organization notes.

In this regard, it should be noted that 50% of the large companies that supply canned tuna from the Western Pacific Ocean to large European commercial surfaces do not have processes to monitor and prosecute violations of the human rights of workers in their chain. production, according to a Deloitte study for the tuna fleet.

To guarantee distributors and consumers that the tuna they sell or consume is caught in accordance with the best environmental and social and labor standards, the Spanish tuna fleet obtained the AENOR Responsible Tuna Fishing (APR) certificate for all its catches in December 2018. This certification is the first in the world fishing sector to ensure compliance with the labor conditions on board required by the ILO in its Convention 188, which earned it the "Food from Spain 2020" Award from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

Last July, the fleet completed this work to guarantee responsible and sustainable tuna fishing by obtaining the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) seal, the most prestigious fishing environmental certification in the world. From the application of its Code of Good Practices and the coverage of 100% of observers, the fleet has obtained the certificate for half of its catches -180,000 tons, 3% of the world production of tropical tuna in all the oceans in which it operates -Indian, Pacific and Atlantic-, becoming the first fishing group in the world to achieve global certification of its fishery.

According to the fleet, the achievement of these two certifications shows that achieving comprehensive sustainability in fishing is possible, the motto of the V National Tuna Congress. "The only thing that remains is for the socioeconomic sustainability of this activity to be reinforced with the market's recognition of our good work," concludes Morón.




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