Skip to main content

Final determination on Echebastar Indian Ocean tuna fishery

The Echebastar Indian Ocean purse seine tuna fishery has been unable to meet the requirements to achieve MSC certification, according to the final report published today by Acoura, the Conformity Assessment Body (CAB) responsible for assessing the fishery against the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) Fisheries Standard.

The fishery failed to meet the minimum score required under the MSC Fisheries Standard’s Performance Indicator for harvest control rules. All Performance Indicators require a score of 60 or greater to gain MSC certification.

The Echebastar fishery entered into full assessment on 22 January 2013. The assessment process included stakeholder input and consideration of all relevant and current information related to the fishery.

“The MSC acknowledges the considerable energy and investment Pesqueras Echebastar S.A put into the assessment process, as well as the important improvements the company has already delivered in moving their fishing operations towards sustainability. The MSC understands their disappointment at the outcome and would like to thank Echebastar for being the first Spanish tropical tuna fishing company committed to the MSC program” says Laura Rodríguez Zugasti, MSC Program Director for Spain and Portugal. “We hope continued improvement in regional management of Indian Ocean tuna fisheries will allow Echebastar to realize their ambition of achieving MSC certification in the future.”

Fishery management

The fish stocks targeted by the Echebastar fishery are under the responsibility of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission, the relevant Regional Fisheries Management Organisation. The Commission is responsible for the management of all tuna and tuna-like species in the Indian Ocean, and will hold its annual meeting in 2016.

“The IOTC has been reporting that it’s making good progress on harvest control rules” says Dr David Agnew, MSC’s Standards Director. “The MSC hopes this positive momentum can be maintained and will soon result in the adoption of clear harvest control rules, which are important to maintaining healthy fish stocks and thriving fisheries now and into the future.”

Objections process 

Independent adjudication was triggered earlier this year by objections to the Echebastar fishery becoming certified. WWF and the International Pole and Line Foundation (IPNLF) submitted objections in April and the independent adjudicator, Eldon Greenberg, considered their objections alongside Acoura’s response at a hearing on 31 July.

Based on the submissions made by the objectors and Acoura on August 21st, Mr Greenberg directed the certification body to review its scoring of the Performance Indicator 1.2.2 of the MSC Fisheries Standard, which relates to harvest control rules, for each of the units of certification covered by the Echebastar assessment, specifically skipjack, yellowfin and bigeye tunas. Following a final round of submissions from affected parties, and a confirmation of the adjudicator’s decision posted on 22 September, Acoura has now revised its assessment of the relevant Performance Indicators and has determined that the fishery does not meet the requirements to achieve MSC certification.

“In the Echebastar assessment, the MSC’s process has been followed fully. The MSC’s processes are designed to allow a fair, transparent and objective consideration of all the evidence pertaining to the sustainability of a fishery, and include an objection process which operates within strict rules defined by the MSC. Out of the more than 300 fisheries that have been assessed to date, the objections process has been triggered 31 times, providing the highest levels of assurance that certified fisheries meet the MSC Standard” says Dr Agnew.

Achieving the high bar set by the MSC

Achieving certification to the MSC Fisheries Standard, particularly for fisheries targeting highly migratory species such as tuna, can be challenging. Acknowledging this, and in order to support consistent application of the MSC Standard for these fisheries, the MSC has appointed a team to strengthen guidance and improve processes for assessing tuna fisheries.

“The MSC is developing a number of proposals to assist management organisations and CABs in better understanding the measures that must be in place for fisheries targeting highly migratory species to be MSC certified” says Dr Agnew. “The MSC sets a high bar in order to ensure that marine life is protected now and for the future. We want to ensure that everyone understands what is required in order to drive fisheries to achieve this level of sustainability.”

Further information

The MSC’s objections procedure >

The Echebastar Indian Ocean purse seine tuna fishery assessment >