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Basque Country and Laredo Spanish fisheries obtain MSC certification for sardine fishing operations in the Bay of Biscay

The certified fleets belong to the federation of fishing guilds of Guipúzcoa and Vizcaya, in the Basque Country, and the San Martín de Laredo guild, in Cantabria. The assessment took place over a period of two and a half years and was conducted by Bureau Veritas, an independent certification body. Veritas analysed the relevant scientific data on the fisheries along with the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Nutrition and the Environment, the regional governments of the Basque Country and Cantabria, and scientific organisations, including the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (Instituto Español de Oceanografía, IEO) and experts in marine and food innovation AZTI.

The fishery had already obtained certification for anchovy and albacore

The certification was awarded to the Organisation of Coastal Fisheries of Guipuzcoa (Organización de Productores de Pesca de Bajura de Guipúzcoa, OPEGUI) and the Organisation of Coastal Fisheries of Biscay (Organización de Productores de Pesca de Bajura de Vizcaya, OPESCAYA) and covers 59 seine-netting boats operating in the Bay of Biscay

The Basque Country and Laredo seine-netting fleet, in line with their commitment to developing sustainable fishery activity, has been awarded MSC certification for its sardine fishing operations. This is the third time this fleet has been certified, having previously obtained certification for our anchovy and albacore methods.

Sardine fishing is also a very important activity for us, though to a lesser extent than anchovy and albacore. In 2016 we landed approximately 3,791 tonnes of sardine”, explains OPEGUI director Miren Garmendia, who adds, “Certification offers consumers the power to decide what they want to buy, and this means that when they choose our sardine, they know they are buying a totally sustainable, high quality product that offers excellent nutritional value. We are confident that the market will understand and appreciate the great efforts made by our fisheries to obtain this certification”. 

Joint management by Spanish, French and English fleets

The Basque fleet is joined in the area by another two, from Cornwall (UK) and Brittany (France), both also MSC certified. The assessment process provided a great incentive for the three fleets to work together in managing the fishery. Specifically, the Spanish and French fleets, working with the EU South Western Waters Advisory Council, have undertaken to establish limits on catches and on the number of fishing permits issued, and are also committed to total transparency and full exchange of information to support the collection of scientific data. The principal aim of the alliance is to establish a formal management plan, which would introduce controls on catches and management methods.

Laura Rodríguez, MSC Spain and Portugal Country Manager says, “The certification of the Bay of Biscay sardine fisheries shows that the MSC programme is a great incentive for different fleets to work together and establish more ambitious management plans. The fisheries included on our programme are leading change around the world. We congratulate the Basque and Laredo guilds once again for taking part on the MSC programme and for adding sardine to the list of certified species, joining albacore and anchovy”.

The MSC ecolabel helps the consumer to identify sustainable seafood products

All sardine caught in the Bay of Biscay by the certified fleets can now be sold with the blue MSC label, which offers consumers a quick and easy way of identifying sustainable seafood products.

Publication notes

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is an international non-profit organisation established to help to transform fishery practices towards sustainability. The MSC operates the only ecolabeling programme for wild fisheries, based on the ISEAL Codes of Good Practice for Setting Social and Environmental Standards. The guidelines are based on the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries.

For more information on the MSC, see

Press contact:

Ángel Varela Pena, MSC Communications Manager, Spain and Portugal.

Email: [email protected]

Phone: +34 637 55 76 46