Spanish tuna association AGAC enters full MSC assessment

AGAC, the Association of Large Tuna Freezers, has entered full Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) assessment. A successful application will result in more than 8 percent of the world’s total tuna catch being added to the eco-label’s sustainability certification scheme.

AGAC includes OPAGAC, the Organization of Associated Producers of Large Tuna Freezers, which operates 48 purse-seine freezing tuna vessels catching yellowfin, bigeye and skipjack tuna from the Indian, Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

OPAGAC entered its initial MSC assessment in June 2019. The full assessment will be conducted by Lloyds Register and will take approximately a year, according to OPAGAC Managing Director Julio Morón, as the certification body compares the group’s practices to the sustainability metrics of the four regional fishing management organizations – the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC), the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), and the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) – under whose jurisdiction it operates. Twelve different units of assessment defined by species, stock, and fishing area are being assessed, with units passing assessment process and recommended for certification eligible to be licensed to use the MSC eco-label.

“We believe that reaching this far demonstrates the commitment of the fishers and shipowners of AGAC towards preservation of the marine environment to which depend our livelihoods and employment,” Morón said in a statement. “We are fully committed to do whatever is on our hands to preserve our fishing activity with the least environmental impact possible and protecting the health of the tropical tuna stocks.”

OPAGAC has spent millions of dollars over the past five years in its quest for eventual MSC certification, beginning with the organization of a fishery improvement project in 2016.

“The process towards the best environmental certification started 10 years ago, upon signature of a Decalogue of Good Practice by the shipowners of AGAC,” Morón said. “In 2012, the decalogue was extended into a Code of Good Practice, [which was] the foundation stone of the fishery improvement project that AGAC initiated in 2016, with the assistance of the WWF. The process of assessment to the MSC standard may take more than a year and we are aware that there is yet work to be done.”

The General Fisheries Secretary  Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food General Fisheries Secretary Luis Planas said in a statement the move represented a step forward for the country’s industry.

“This will contribute to the achievement of the environmental objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy and the international commitment of Spain towards sustainable exploitation of these important marine resources by the Spanish tuna fleet, which is present in all the oceans,” Planas said.

MSC Spain and Portugal Director Laura Rodriguez said AGAC’s decision to pursue certification represented a milestone for her organization.

“The tuna association AGAC is the first to ask for its entire global catch across three oceans to be assessed simultaneously to the MSC’s sustainability standard. The assessment process will provide invaluable information which we have not had before on the sustainability levels of each of the tropical tuna species in each ocean,” Rodriguez said. “We are very pleased about AGAC’s decision to steadily improve its fishing practices over the years, and for now committing to a rigorous assessment process for environmental sustainability.”

Photo courtesy of OPAGAC


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