Skip to main content

Pacific Alliance for Sustainable Tuna earns MSC certification

After an in-depth assessment by independent auditors, the Pacific Alliance for Sustainable Tuna (PAST) –  comprised of four leaders in the Mexican tuna industry Grupomar, Herdez del Fuerte, Pesca Azteca, and Procesa – has achieved Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification. The assessment, which included detailed stakeholder consultation and independent adjudication, concluded that the fleet of 36 purse seine vessels meets the high bar of sustainability set by the MSC Fisheries Standard.

Widely recognized as the world’s most rigorous and credible assessment of wild fishing sustainability, the MSC Fishery Standard is founded on three principles: healthy fish stocks, minimizing impact on the wider marine environment, and effective fishery management.

The detailed sustainability assessment of the Northeastern Tropical Pacific purse seine yellowfin and skipjack tuna fishery was carried out by the accredited third-party certification body, SCS Global Services, and included extensive review by scientists , peer review, and stakeholder consultation.

Brian Perkins, MSC regional director - Americas, said: "Nearly 30 years of actions to minimize impacts on the oceans by the Northeastern Tropical Pacific purse seine yellowfin and skipjack tuna fishery have been recognised through the MSC assessment process. PAST’s bold actions to address tough environmental challenges have been transformative. We believe this is the kind of progress that MSC was designed to inspire.”

Sustainable fishing practices

The fishery operates in compliance with all requirements of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC), the Regional Fishery Management Organization. Importantly, the fishing fleet adheres to the Agreement on International Dolphin Conservation Program (AIDCP), a legally binding multilateral agreement between fishing nations within the IATTC with conservation objectives.  All of PAST’s fishing vessels have an independent observer on board to ensure continued compliance. Additionally, in June 2015 PAST withdrew voluntarily from fishing Pacific Bluefin tuna, a species that is overfished, for a seven-year period.

Each team of fishermen works proactively to minimize impact on the ocean ecosystem including aiming for 100% live release of all non-target species. Their efforts include using a specially designed net that incorporates a fine mesh safety panel, known as the “Medina Panel,” which allows non-tuna species to swim clear of the net. The industry also employs highly specialized and trained divers to assist any remaining dolphins with escaping the net prior to lifting the net. 

Mariana Ramos, Executive Director of the Pacific Alliance for Sustainable Tuna said: “Our members – Grupomar, Herdez del Fuerte, Pesca Azteca, and Procesa – are driven by sustainability and dedicated to providing ocean-safe tuna to their customers and to continuing to make a difference for oceans. The MSC certification is one more way we can demonstrate to our customers that our tuna is fished in a highly sustainable manner.”

Commitments to safeguard the environment and livelihoods

As part of achieving MSC certification, PAST has committed to a comprehensive sustainability action plan, which includes: further dolphin protection measures including investments in regular net alignment practices as a means to reduce the risk of dolphins becoming entangled, and other training in best practices across the fleet; significant financial investment in an international research program to assess dolphin populations in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean; zero retention and maximum live release program for all sharks and rays; and active stakeholder engagement in building more transparency in fisheries across Mexico.

The fishery provides over 30,000 direct and indirect jobs and economic opportunities in many communities in the Americas and over US$750 million in productivity to the Mexican economy.

30 years of actions

Since the 1980s, concern for the impacts of purse seine fishing in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean (EPO) drove international governments and NGOs to sign a series of transformative conservation agreements focused on sustainability. One of the most significant of these is the 1999 Agreement on the AIDCP, focused on the sustainability of fishing in the EPO and the protection of dolphin populations through science-based regulation, concerted improvement of fishing practice, and independent monitoring by onboard scientific observers.

The AIDCP was awarded the Margarita Lizárraga Medal by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in 2005 for its “unqualified success” in protecting dolphins and ensuring the sustainability of fishing in the EPO. Under this agreement, which requires 100% coverage by onboard scientific observers to monitor compliance, fishers work proactively to ensure the live release of non-tuna species including dolphins. Data shows that between 1985 and 1997 dolphin mortalities as a result of purse seine fishing in the EPO fell by 99%.

Objections process

In the final stage of this assessment an independent adjudicator (IA) reviewed the certifier’s determination in light of concerns raised by World Wildlife Fund Germany (WWF). The IA upheld the certifier’s determination that the fishery met the MSC Fisheries Standard.

Download factsheet and timeline >

Blog: A Mexican milestone for tuna >

Download assessment documents from >

Watch a video about the AIDCP >