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Spanish tuna association achieves global first for MSC certification in all four oceans

July 15 2022

Madrid: Spanish ministers, fishing industry representatives and marine scientists gathered today in Madrid to recognise the simultaneous certification of six separate tuna stocks fished by the Association of Large Freezer Tuna Vessels (AGAC) to the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) international standard for sustainable fishing. 

The certification applies to yellowfin tuna in the Eastern and Western Pacific and in the Atlantic; skipjack tuna in the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans; and bigeye tuna also in the Western Pacific. It is the first time that a fishing operation has achieved certification for operations in all four oceans. It is also the first purse seine fishery including both free school and Fish Aggregating Device (FAD) sets to achieve certification in the Atlantic Ocean. 

AGAC entered its entire fishing operation, covering 12 tropical tuna stocks, for MSC assessment in 2020. Of these, fishing operations on six stocks were found to meet the MSC’s rigorous requirements for certification. The certification applies to approximately half the total catch of AGAC’s fleet of 44 purse seine vessels and 3% of the world’s tuna harvest. 

This achievement is the result of more than 10 years’ work to improve the sustainability of AGAC’s operations, including a Fisheries Improvement Project (FIP) started in 2016. In 2012 AGAC introduced a Code of Good Practice (CGP) to address impacts on non-target species, including the adoption of non-entangling FADs. Compliance with the CGP is verified annually by the independent scientific organization AZTI. Onboard and electronic observation is in place for all fishing trips.  

Certification was in part made possible by contributions from more than 2,000 crew working on the AGAC fleet who contributed ideas on effective solutions to sustainability challenges. AGAC members also made a total investment in new technologies, operations and research of more than €17 million. 

This global assessment has provided unparalleled information on the state of sustainability of all tropical tuna stocks around the world. AGAC has committed to implement action plans to resolve weaknesses identified for both the certified and uncertified stocks. 

“Among all the activities of the blue economy, sustainable fishing hold a privileged place: we must frame it as part of our balance with maritime-coastal ecosystems and differentiate it from illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing and overfishing, which constitute serious threats to the health of the ocean. Fighting against these threats also means making visible and rewarding those who understand sustainability and care for the environment as a commitment to the future.”  -   Teresa Ribera, the Third Vice President of the Government and Minister for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge. 

“From the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, we value very positively this action of the tuna association AGAC that reinforces the commitment of its fleet with sustainability and is fully aligned with the objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy. There is no doubt that initiatives such as this, contribute to consolidate the leadership of Spain in the conservation and sustainable use of marine resources, particularly regarding a resource such as tuna, so important for the food supply of our population.”  Alicia Villauriz, Secretary General of Fishery. 

“AGAC’s members are first and foremost interested in maintaining the health of the resources on which our livelihood depends. Achieving MSC certification after so much work, investment and effort on the part of all the OPAGAC-AGAC family encourages us to continue these efforts.” Julio Morón, managing director of AGAC. 

“The certification of the AGAC association fleet is a milestone for the sustainability of tuna, both due to the number of vessels involved, the fishing operations considered, and the different tuna populations analyzed simultaneously. We congratulate AGAC for this decade of exhaustive work to demonstrate best practices in tuna fishing and for its long-term commitment to preserving this important resource.”  - Laura Rodríguez, MSC Program Director Spain & Portugal.