The Producers’ Association of Large Tuna Freezers (OPAGAC), an industry organization that includes about 40 large tuna purse seiners fishing for tuna around the globe, has agreed to a tighter set of fishing standards that will set it on course to achieve Marine Stewardship Council certification within the next five years.
Working with the World Wildlife Fund, OPAGAC has agreed to execute a work plan forged following consultation with the FIP Advisory Group that oversees the fishery. The FIP work plan will be executed over the next five years with progress evaluated twice a year, after which the fishery may seek MSC certification.
“The launch of this challenging FIP has taken a long time, as we started our scoping study in 2014, but we believe that the effort is worth it,” OPAGAC Manager Julio Morón said. “We hope to contribute to the sustainable exploitation of tropical tunas by strengthening RFMOs and by fishing responsibly, as industrial fisheries provide food to a large portion of the world’s population.”
OPAGAC represents tuna fishing companies from seven countries, independently operating purse seiners in the Atlantic, Indian, and Western and Eastern Pacific oceans. In a statement, OPAGAC acknowledged that “a growing number of tropical tuna stocks are overfished, including bigeye tuna in the Western Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, and yellowfin tuna in the Indian Ocean.” The organization urged better management by regional fisheries management organizations, or RFMOs, which would close gaps in measures covering harvest control rules, tighten rules for the management of fish aggregating devices (FADs) and combat the illegal use of driftnets, it said.
“OPAGAC and other partners will implement the FIP and work with the RFMOs responsible for improving the management of tropical tuna fisheries through adoption of more appropriate regulatory frameworks for yellowfin, skipjack and bigeye tuna fisheries. The regulatory frameworks need harvest strategies and fishing levels based on the best available science, and that allow for maximum sustainable yield,” OPAGAC said in its release.
The FIP work plan will put special focus on management of FADs, OPAGAC said.
“OPAGAC has successfully changed from FADs that had the capacity to entangle marine animals, in particular sharks, to FADs that are non-entangling. Next steps include the development of biodegradable FADs to reduce marine pollution, as well as the improvement of the selectivity of sets done on FADs to reduce the capture of sharks and juvenile tuna,” it said.
WWF Global Tuna Governance Lead Daniel Suddaby said OPAGAC’s move to pursue more responsible fishing for tuna species around the world is an important step.
“Lack of effective management of tropical tuna stocks risks the loss of a critical component for the marine ecosystem, as well as the livelihoods and valuable protein sources for millions of people,” Suddaby said. “Solutions to incentivise better management rely on collaboration of different sectors. This bold new initiative uniting the catching sector and WWF on a well-defined journey to sustainability is exciting and unique for its sheer scale and ambition.”