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First Baltic Sea sprat fishery certified

The Latvian Fishermen’s Producers Organization (LFPO) has achieved certification to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Fisheries Standard for their sprat fishery in the Central Baltic Sea. The LFPO fishery is the first Baltic Sea sprat fishery to become certified. Sprat is one of several stocks included in a multiannual management plan for the Baltic Sea that was adopted in 2016.

Minna Epps, MSC Program Director for Scandinavia and Baltic Sea Region says:

“The certification of the LFPO Latvian sprat fishery is very positive for the Baltic Sea Region. It illustrates the strength of having a multi-species EU long-term management plan in place and demonstrates that Baltic Sea fisheries can meet the rigorous MSC Standard. The outcome of the assessment process can inspire other countries and fleets that target the same stock. The Finnish sprat fishery is already in assessment and other countries may follow.”

Opening doors to sustainable markets

The prospect of expanding to new markets was an important driver behind LFPO’s decision to go for MSC certification; however, some initial challenges had to be overcome.

Mr Inarijs Voits, Chairman of the LFPO Board says:

“It has taken time to get all the fishermen on-board and to see the advantages of MSC certification. The MSC sprat certificate will open doors to new markets that were previously closed to Latvian fishermen. The certification also comes with some new responsibilities for the fishermen. Our organisation will monitor the process and collect data on catches and MSC certified sprat export. We think this certification will bring many new advantages in the future.”

The news is also greeted by suppliers. Mr Sylvain Cuperlier,  CSR & Sustainability Director for seafood company Thai Union Europe adds:

“In Europe, Thai Union continuously looks at opportunities to launch additional products with the MSC label. Having MSC certified Baltic sprat in our product portfolio will be an important milestone.”

More about the fishery and assessment

The certified fishery encompasses 22 LFPO pelagic (midwater) trawls operated by 11 Latvian fishing companies - members of the National Fishermen’s Producers Organization (LFPO) for Latvia. The vessels landed 16 437 tons of sprat in 2016, representing approximately 8 % of the EU quota for the sprat in the Baltic Sea.

The third-party assessment team (Bureau Veritas) highlight that Baltic sprat is subject to ‘best practice’ analytical fish stock assessment and that the status of the stock is good. The catch is landed in Latvia and processed into sprat in brine and oil for human consumption. Most of the products are exported to other European countries while 10-15% goes to the domestic market. There is little bycatch, and the fishery is well managed with respect to control and enforcement.