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AGAC achieves Marine Stewardship Council certification for Indian Ocean skipjack tuna

After more than two years of independent assessment, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) announces that the Association of Large Freezer Tuna Vessels (Asociación de Grandes Atuneros Congeladores, AGAC) has obtained MSC certification for skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis) in the Indian Ocean.

The certification applies to skipjack tuna caught using AGAC’s fleet of 14 purse seine vessels in the Indian Ocean. It includes catches associated with Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) and from free school sets. This achievement is the result of more than 10 years’ work to improve the sustainably of the fishery, including a Fisheries Improvement Project (FIP) started in 2016 and completed in 2020.

The certification means that AGAC’s skipjack tuna can now be sold with the blue MSC label signifying that the fishery has demonstrated its sustainability to the world’s leading standard for sustainable wild-capture fishing, the MSC Fisheries Standard. MSC certification is widely recognized as the most demanding and credible assessment of a fishery’s sustainability. The MSC Standard is based on three fundamental principles: healthy fish stocks; minimization of the impact on the marine environment as a whole; and an effective fisheries management system.

To verify its sustainability, the fishery underwent an extensive, in-depth assessment by independent conformity assessment body, Lloyd’s Register (now LRQA). Sixteen stakeholders participated in the assessment by submitting information or being interviewed. All their comments and contributions can be read in detail in the Public Certification Report (PCR).

The assessment process began in 2020 with the public announcement and presentation of the preliminary assessment of the fishery by Lloyd’s Register. The process then followed the comprehensive steps of a full assessment, including peer review, site visits, stakeholder submissions, and various interim reports published on the MSC website.

The assessment of the fishery showed that it has shown leadership in sustainable fishing. Since 2012 AGAC has implemented a Code of Good Practice (CGP) to address impacts on non-target species, including the adoption of non-entangling FADs before this requirement became mandatory in some Regional Fisheries Management Organizations. Compliance with the CGP is verified annually by the independent scientific organization AZTI. All companies and fishing vessels included in the certification adhere to this binding Code of Good Practice.

In addition, AGAC has made great strides in reducing the impact of FADs on vulnerable habitats and the ecosystem by launching the first multi-stakeholder FAD-recovery project in the world (FAD-Watch[1,2], in the Seychelles), by spearheading the transition to biodegradable[3] and non-entangling FADs and also by monitoring this transition through an observer program.

“Congratulations to AGAC for this achievement in the Indian Ocean, which is part of wider assessment in the different oceans where the tuna association operates. We acknowledge the decade of work that the members of the association have undertake to improve their practices and to meet the MSC Standard. This certification is excellent news for business and consumers looking for sustainable tuna.” Laura Rodriguez, Marine Stewardship Council program director for Spain and Portugal.

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Notes to editors





The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is an international non-profit organisation which sets globally recognised, science-based standards for sustainable fishing and the seafood supply chain. The MSC ecolabel and certification program recognises and rewards sustainable fishing practices and is helping create a more sustainable seafood market. More than 530 fisheries are currently certified to the Standard, representing 16% of wild marine catch, making it the largest sustainable fishing programme in the world.  The influence of the MSC Fisheries Standard extends far beyond this, with its requirements used globally as a framework for those seeking to improve ocean sustainability.  It is the only wild-capture fisheries certification and ecolabelling program that meets best practice requirements set by both the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO) and ISEAL, the global membership association for sustainability standards.

Asociación de Grandes Atuneros Congeladores (AGAC) was established on July 4, 1980, as an association of freezer tuna vessel owners of at least 750 GRT registered tons, the Association of Large Freezer Tuna Vessels (Asociación de Grandes Atuneros Congeladores, AGAC) began its journey with five companies, although in a few years they were increased to seven, with the aim of representing the interests of a restless group of shipowners dedicated to the tropical tuna fishery with the global vision that this fishery has later shown to have.

Currently, the association is made up of nine shipowner groups, including Spanish ships (grouped in OPAGAC) and investments by these shipowners in ships from coastal countries in Ecuador, Seychelles, El Salvador, Curaçao, Panama, Guatemala and Belize.