Spanish group OPAGAC introduces social and environmental standards for tuna fishing

The Organization of Associated Producers of Large Freezer Tuna Freezers (OPAGAC), an amalgamation of nine Spanish companies that own tuna seiners, announced last month that it is developing new environmental and social standards for the global tuna-fishing fleet.

The group announced the move at the 2017 Our Oceans Conference in Malta, pledging to align its own fishing practices with the standards by the end of the current year, according to OPAGAC managing director Julio Morón.

“The Spanish tuna fleet will express its commitment to the development of a global standard that guarantees responsible fishing and the sustainability of the tropical tuna fishery. The standard will integrate both environmental and social sustainability, two inseparable pillars to ensure the future of this resource on a global scale,” Morón said in a press release. “The future of the tropical tuna fishery, like that of any other, depends not only on environmental sustainability, but also, and in a very special way, on social sustainability, ensuring decent working conditions for crew members capable of ensuring similar levels of competitiveness on a global scale as an essential tool to eradicate illegal fishing.”

OPAGAC said its development of the standards originated from group efforts to meet the goal of the United Nations Development Program’s Sustainable Development Objective 14, which calls for the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and marine resources. With 47 tuna seiners in its fleet catching more than 390,000 tons of tuna annually in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans – approximately 7.5 percent of the global catch – OPAGAC’s commitment will have an immediate global impact, Morón said. 

The standards will meet social conditions set by the Spanish Association for Standardization and Certification (AENOR) – an entity dedicated to the development of standardization and certification in all Spanish industrial and service sectors. AENOR’s standards are in alignment with 2007 International Work Organization (ILO) Work in Fishing Convention. The standards will also include rules governing maritime safety, control of fishing activity, good fishing practices, and sanitary conditions onboard vessels. 

On the environmental front, OPAGAC said its standards will align with those set by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). In recent years, OPAGAC has worked with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to develop a fishery improvement project (FIP) covering three species of tuna (skipjack, bigeye and yellowfin) caught with purse seine in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans. The organization said it will push for the FIP to earn MSC certification by 2021.

Additional measures tackled by the new standards will focus on “improving the management of the Regional Fisheries Organizations (RFOs), adopting concrete measures in the practice of tuna fishing gear to ensure the sustainability of tropical tunas and the this art of fishing in the ecosystem and, finally, the improvement of the governability from the coastal countries, including the fight against the illegal fishing.”

“In this way, the environmental, control and socio-economic areas, which are the triple pillar on which the standard is based, are covered,” Morón said.


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