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North Atlantic Albacore Fishery Enters Sustainable Assessment

17 September 2014

SPAIN - The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has announced that the Organisation for Inshore Fishing of Gipuzkoa (OPEGUI), the Organisation for Inshore Fishing of Biscay (OPESCAYA) and the San Martín de Laredo Fishermen’s Guild are undergoing MSC full assessment to certify the sustainability of their albacore (Thunnus alalunga) fishery operations in the North Atlantic.

If the assessment is successful, the albacore landed by these fleets will be eligible to bear the MSC blue ecolabel. The ecolabel offers consumers a fast and easy way to choose sustainable seafood products and contribute to the continued availability of fish species in the future. The evaluation will be performed independently, as part of a participative process, under the rigorous MSC environmental standard for sustainable fishing.

Certificate open to other Bay of Biscay fleets

The announcement comes after earlier press releases detailing the commencement of the MSC full assessment of Cantabrian anchovy and Bay of Biscay sardine, landed by the same fleets. This is an important development in the efforts made by Cantabrian Sea fleets to demonstrate the sustainability of their fishing operations.

An open certification system has been established. This means that the certification could be shared with other guilds and boats in the Bay of Biscay fleet which may be eligible to display the blue MSC ecolabel on their albacore catches.

The operations are conducted in the Bay of Biscay and adjacent North Atlantic waters, FAO fishing zone 27. The fishery is composed of a trolling fleet which operates from late May to October and pole and line using live bait fleet which operates from July to November. The fishery has 101 client boats - 42 pole and line vessels and 59 trolling vessels, from the Federation of Guilds of Guipúzcoa and Vizcaya and the Guild of San Martín of Laredo.

In 2013 these fleets landed a total of roughly 4300 tonnes between them.

A commitment to demonstrate the good practices of Cantabrian albacore fishermen

Representatives from the guilds have commented: "Our sector is committed to sustainability and we defend the use of selective fishing methods, such as trolling or live bait for our albacore fishing operations in the Cantabrian Sea. By obtaining MSC certification we hope to confirm our commitment to responsible fishing, assuring consumers the origin of albacore that is clearly identified as coming from the Cantabrian Sea and demonstrating to the market the good practices of our fishermen".

Promoting local fisheries with the MSC ecolabel

Laura Rodríguez, MSC Spain and Portugal Country Manager, declared: "With the Cantabrian sea anchovy, sardine and albacore being assessed to our standard, the possibilities of consuming locally-caught, independently-certified sustainable fish in Spain have increased tremendously. We also foresee a huge potential for placing MSC ecolabelled Cantabrian albacore as product with great value on the international markets. We wish the Basque and Laredo fleets great success in the process".

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