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First Spanish Artisanal Fishery Obtains MSC Certification for its Razor Clams

23 January 2013

SPAIN - The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has announced that the Cofradía de Pescadores San Martiño de Bueu has been awarded MSC certification for its small-scale razor clam (Ensis arcuatus) fishery operations in Ría de Pontevedra, making it the first Spanish shellfish fishery and the world’s first diver-caught razor clam fishery to do so

Cofradía de Bueu´s diver holds the MSC ecolabel and some razor clams in his hands

MSC is the world’s leading environmental certification programme for fisheries. The certificate is a massive boost for the cofradía, and has been awarded in recognition of a strategy based on professionalism and respect for marine resources. Razor clams caught by the cofradía in Ría de Pontevedra may now bear the blue MSC ecolabel, which offers consumers a quick and easy way of choosing seafood products responsibly.

Hand-caught by Divers

Razor clams captured in Ría de Pontevedra are hand-caught by divers, known as navalleiros, who dive to the bottom to find the clams, buried in the sand on the seabed. Traditionally, divers used no scuba gear or other breathing devices, and normally had to make several dives in order to complete their catch, although nowadays external breathing systems are normally used. One kilogram of razor clams usually consists of about 40 units. Click here to see a video of how they are caught.

Pontevedra’s ria, or estuary, is divided into seven fishing areas, rotated regularly according to stock status in order to ensure resources are maintained at sustainable levels. Each day, divers visit a single area, where they fish from 8.00 am to 2.00 pm. The area is equipped with a check point, from where the day’s work is monitored and controlled.

Of the cofradías (fishermen associations) operating in Galicia, San Martiño de Bueu offers a marvellous example of concern for sustainability and proactivity in seeking to add value to their catch, as evidenced by their pioneering interest in MSC certification as a means of acquiring international recognition for their practices.

On completion of the process, the certificate is now held by Cofradía San Martiño de Bueu, made up of 9 divers and 7 boats. The certificate also extends to the other cofradías operating on the Ría: Portonovo, Sanxenxo, Raxó, Pontevedra, Lourizán, and Marín, totalling 39 fishers and 26 boats, all of whom can now attach the MSC label to their catches providing they are landed at Bueu.

What the Cofradía de Bueu says

José Manuel Rosas Otero, Patrón Mayor of Cofradía de Bueu, had this to say: "Galician small-scale fishing and Cofradía de Pescadores de Bueu believe in sustainability, and having MSC certification for our razor clams is a great endorsement for an industry that believes that an important part of our work involves guaranteeing stocks for the future. We also expect that this will be reflected in the price paid for our clams, which are, moreover, an excellent product.

We would like to thank the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation which has given us financial support showing a high commitment with the sustainability of the artisanal fishery in Bueu”

What the MSC says

Laura Rodriguez, MSC Spain and Portugal Country Manager, explained, “Cofradía de Bueu became interested in the MSC programme long before we opened our offices in Spain. They are marvellous ambassadors for the programme and an example of motivation and long-term vision. The road they have taken will help other small-scale fisheries to join the programme in the future and will spread word of the excellent practices being used by the seafood sector in Galicia”.

MSC Certification

Evaluation to MSC standards was carried out by Bureau Veritas, an independent auditing company accredited by a third party. As part of a participative, strict and independent process, lasting over one year, a group of experts appointed by Bureau Veritas evaluated the fishery on the basis of the three basic MSC environmental standards, relative to the health of affected stocks, the impact of the activity on the marine ecosystem, and good management practices.

The evaluation showed stocks to be healthy and the fishery to be well-managed, having only minimal impact on the marine ecosystem.

Development of MSC in Spain

MSC has had offices in Spain since 2011, and is gaining much interest from the fishing sector, processors and retail. To date, another six fisheries are being assessed for MSC certification and 47 businesses have received Chain of Custody certification, allowing them to market eco-labelled seafood products. MSC-labelled products are available at Lidl, Aldi, El Corte Inglés, Eroski and Alcampo among other chains.

Since January 2012, MSC has a new ally in Spain - Fundación Biodiversidad. This Foundation gives financial support to the activities including working with fisheries and businesses, information workshops, and awareness-raising activities in outlets carrying MSC-labelled products.

TheFishSite News Desk

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