Press releases

Portuguese Sardine fishery commits to MSC reinstatement

March 15, 2012

A Sardine Commission made up of fishery representatives, the Portuguese government, the canning association, and research body Ipimar, has taken its first steps towards overcoming the suspension of the Portuguese sardine fishery’s MSC certificate. Working with Anopcerco - the Portuguese Association of Purse Seine Producers Organisations – the Sardine Commission has already agreed a range of measures with the support of the national government.

In order for the suspension to be lifted two requirements must be met:
- Firstly a strong corrective action plan is to be presented before 12 April 2012,
- Secondly stock status must show that the decline has been reversed.

Action plan on progress and strong measures already in place

On 1 February, the Secretary of State of the Sea approved an Order (Despacho No. 1520/2012), which states “In 2012, uncertainty regarding actual stock status requires the adoption of management and control measures for the fishery, in spite of the review of stock to be conducted in the first semester of the year”.

The measures adopted include a maximum landing of sardines of 9,000 tonnes from 1 January to 31 May [1], which has been distributed among producer organisations. At the same time, a compulsory 45 days fishing ban for each production region (North, Centre and South) has also been approved. Docapesca, a state-owned company under management of the Ministry of Agriculture, Sea, Environment and Physical Planning, will monitor compliance with the Order on a monthly basis. Although the dramatic reduction in landings and the fishing ban will have a huge impact on the short term income of fishermen, Anopcerco, together with producer´s organisations, has supported the decision motivated by the long term benefits of maintaining the fishery’s MSC certification and the prospect of healthier status of resources.

Uncertainty regarding recovery of stock

Although significant progress has already been made on the action plan, until there is more certainty about the status of the stock it is not yet possible to determine when the suspension will be lifted.

ICES (the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea) conducted a benchmark survey of stock status on 17 February 2012. However, the analysis focused mainly on the revision of the data and the definition of stock assessment methodology. The preliminary results indicate that the stock status has not changed relative to the results of the previous assessment in July 2011. The work is, however, driving an improved scientific understanding of the fishery and a minimum biomass level (Blim) has now been identified. This is the minimum level needed to assure long term reproductive capacity for sustainable harvest rates and, according to data available up to spring 2011, stock levels are currently below that point.

A new analysis of the stock, scheduled for July 2012, will provide more information on how the sardine stocks have reacted to these measures implemented earlier in the year.

Timelines for the suspension

The suspension will remain in place until its causes have been fully addressed.
In this case, the 90-day deadline from the date of the suspension falls on 12 April 2012. Accordingly, the action plan must be presented before that date for acceptance and approval by the certification body. If the action plan is approved, the suspension will remain in place while the measures are implemented. If the action plan is not approved, the certification will be withdrawn.


As soon as the certification body has evidence of recovery of the stock, the certification will be reinstated. This evidence may be provided by the ICES assessment to be conducted in July 2012 or by a later further analysis scheduled for July 2013. Otherwise, the suspension may be maintained until expiry of the certification in January 2015.

Portuguese Government supports the process

Secretary of State of the Sea, Manuel Pinto de Abreu: “The sustainable use and exploitation of living and non-living resources is a hallmark of the Portuguese government’s policy for the sea. For fisheries in particular, sustainability must be attained through a harvesting strategy that embodies the conclusions from solid scientific assessments of the stocks and safeguards the integrity of the environment. Certification based on the latter criteria plays a very important role by assuring independent quality control and monitoring of the fishing activities. Therefore, the Portuguese Government values ANOPCERCO’s MSC certification of the sardine fishery and supports all the current efforts conducive to maintaining the certification”.

Total commitment from the fishery

Humberto Jorge, President of Anopcerco, says: “Producer Organisations and the seafood sector have an absolute commitment to reverse the current situation of the MSC certification for the Portuguese sardine. Management measures, based on sustainable criteria, at environmental, social and economic level, are under development to overcome the difficulties in an efficient manner”.

MSC looking forward to a positive outcome

Nicolas Guichoux, MSC European Director, explains: “The commitment of the Portuguese stakeholders towards MSC certification is a great example of how the MSC program can be a means of uniting fishermen, processors, authorities and scientists in a shared aim. Ensuring the long-term health of the stock is crucial to the future of the fishing industry, and the market recognition enjoyed by MSC-labelled Portuguese sardine in more than 10 countries is additional motivation to maintain the certification.  We are delighted to be working together with portuguese partners to bring about positive changes” 

Laura Rodríguez, Country Manager for Spain and Portugal adds: “Our Iberian office is following the process very closely and we can see a high interest in the supply chain for this situation to be solved in the near future. Although it is difficult to predict how the situation of the stock will evolve in the following months, the determination of the fishery to get their certificate reinstates is very encouraging.”

For more information, please contact MSC Spain and Portugal Regional Office, , Tel: + 00 34 91 831 59 63

[1] High season for sardine runs from June to December, where more than 70% of captures are taken. In 2011, landings were around 17.000 tonnes from January to May and  38.000 tonnes in the period from June to December. Landings for the 2012 high season are still to be decided.

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