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North Atlantic albacore artisanal fishery now MSC certified.

Consumers can now enjoy North Atlantic albacore tuna and rest assured that it comes from a sustainable, environmentally friendly fishery. After an independent and participatory assessment against the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard, the artisanal fishery that uses trolling and pole-and-line techniques to catch Atlantic albacore tuna (Thunnus alalunga) has been recognised with the blue ecolabel. MSC is the world’s most rigorous environmental standard for sustainable fisheries.

The Basque and Laredo fishermen’s guilds are recognised on World Oceans Day

On 8th of June 2016, World Oceans Day, the Spanish Inshore Producers Organisations from Gipuzkoa (OPEGUI) and Biscay (OPESCAYA) and the San Martín de Laredo Fishermen’s Guild were awarded MSC certificate for sustainable fisheries at an event held at the San Pedro de Hondarribia Fishermen’s Guild in Gipuzkoa.

Independent certification authority Bureau Veritas assesses this fishery, and revealed that the albacore tuna stock is healthy, fishing activities have minimal impact on the ecosystem, and the fishery is properly run with a precautionary management system in place. 

Albacore tuna captured by hand, one by one

This artisanal fishery operates in the waters of the Bay of Biscay and the neighbouring waters of the North Atlantic FAO Fishing Area 27. The fishery has a trolling fleet made up of 87 vessels that capture albacore tuna from June to October and a live-bait fishing fleet that mainly uses anchovies and sardines as bait and is made up of 42 vessels that capture tuna during the summer months, from July to November. Both fleets use selective fishing methods, where the albacore tuna are captured one by one, thus allowing the fishery to have a minimal and controllable environmental impact on the ecosystem.

After the certification of the Cantabrian anchovy, the announcement of the certification of albacore tuna serves to reaffirm the significant efforts of the certified fleets to demonstrate that their fishing practices are sustainable. Fishermen of the Basque and Laredo Fishermen’s Guilds continue to commit to sustainability, advocating the use of traditional fishing methods. 

Guaranteeing sustainability to consumers

Miren Garmendia, Secretary of the Federation of Fishermen’s Guilds of Gipuzkoa, said: “In September 2014, after much thought, albacore tuna fishermen from the Basque Country and Laredo started the certification process for this fishery. We decided to take this step forward given the need to have an independent and highly credible organisation endorse and validate the sustainability of our practices and our fisheries. Today, in addition to quality, freshness, etc., consumers and markets need and demand adequate guarantees that the use of products is sustainable and does not endanger the environment. With this certification, we can now offer this guarantee. In addition, the canning and processing facilities that work with our albacore tuna can now enter markets where consumers demand this certification.

We also want to use this certification to help consumers know exactly where their albacore tuna comes from. To do so, we are asking that the final packaging clearly state that the albacore tuna comes from the Cantabrian Sea. Many times consumers buy albacore tuna thinking it comes from the Cantabrian Sea, but that is not always the case. Albacore tuna is the name of the species (Thunnus alalunga).

All of the efforts carried out to attain this certification do not stop here; rather, it means that we will continue to work on improving management of the fishery. To do so, we have defined an action plan that will be carried out over the next few years. We are confident that all of our work and dedication will lead to an increase in the profitability of this fishery and benefit our fishermen."

Laura Rodríguez, Spain and Portugal MSC Program Director, said: "This fleet’s commitment to achieve the MSC certification and being recognised as a sustainable fishery has led to many years of work in conjunction with the Basque Government and AZTI (Marine and Food Technological Centre). This collective work has helped spur improvements in the international management of the fishery, which were supported by the General Secretariat for Fisheries and the European Commission, and they were successful after they were adopted by the ICCAT Regional Fishery Organisation. This certification also recognises the sum of all coordinated efforts and we hope it continues to serve as an example and reference for other international tuna fisheries."