40 large Spanish tuna purse seiners commit to conservation improvements

Posted on February, 11 2016

40 large Spanish tuna purse seiners commit to substantial conservation improvements WWF and OPAGAC join forces to improve sustainability of tropical tuna fisheries

Madrid. WWF and the Organization of Associated Producers of Large Tuna Freezers (OPAGAC) will cooperate to improve the sustainability and transparency of tropical tuna fisheries in all of the world’s oceans. They convened to launch a Fishery Improvement Project (FIP) to help establish an appropriate management framework and good fishing practices that meet the sustainability standards set by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and guarantee the sustainable fishing of tropical tuna stocks. OPAGAC, representing 40 Spanish purse seiners that operate in the Atlantic, the Pacific and the Indian Ocean, committed to important improvements of its fishing operations to reach MSC certification in 5 years.


A growing number of tropical tuna fisheries are overfished, such as bigeye tuna in the Western Pacific, yellowfin tuna in the Indian Ocean, or the Atlantic bigeye tuna. This worrying trend is a result of the lack of effective measures taken by Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs), such as the non-existence of establishing harvest control rules and well-defined reference points for tuna, poor or no management of fishing capacity in most international fisheries, which has significantly increased the world fleet in recent years, the lack of proper management of fish aggregating devices (FADs), and insufficient control of the activities of long-line fishing vessels targeting tuna or the illegal use of driftnets.


In order to prepare the work plan for the FIP, OPAGAC hired the fisheries consulting firm MRAG who conducted a pre-assessment of tropical tuna fisheries fished by OPAGAC vessels in the Atlantic, Indian, Eastern Pacific and Central and Western Pacific Oceans. WWF evaluated and completed the information from the pre-assessment, and together WWF and OPAGAC are now creating a FIP action plan. WWF, OPAGAC and other partners will work together through the FIP to ensure that the RFMOs responsible for the management of tropical tuna fisheries adopt appropriate regulatory frameworks for yellowfin, skipjack and bigeye tuna fisheries. The regulatory frameworks need harvest strategies and fishing levels based on the best available science, and that allow for maximum sustainable yield (MSY).


One of the main challenges of the FIP is the proper management of FADs, both for the devices selectivity and the growth in fishing capacity from the increased efficiency of catching tuna with FADs. Complementary projects and research that OPAGAC has developed for years aboard its fleet will contribute to scientific discussions and the application of appropriate management measures for the fisheries across all RFMOs.


José Luis García Varas, Head of the Marine Programme at WWF Spain commented:”The problems of tropical tunas move at a faster speed than we can implement solutions. WWF already works in different oceans, with coastal states and artisanal fleets to solve these problems. This global agreement with OPAGAC allows WWF to work with a decisive partner to move forward on the sustainability of tropical tuna fisheries".


Dr. Julio Morón, Director of OPAGAC, “considers that a collaboration with WWF is essential to establishing the highest standards for sustainable fishing for tropical tunas”. As a representative of the professional organization, he believes that “the owners of OPAGAC have been working for a long time to increase the accountability and sustainability of their tuna fishing, goals that the organization shares with WWF. We expect that this collaboration can promote the principles of sustainable fishing in the RFMOs.”


For more detailed information:

Juan Carlos del Olmo, CEO of WWF Spain (left), Julio Morón, Managing Director of OPAGAC (center) and Daniel Suddaby, deputy leader of SFI (right) sign a Memorandum of Understanding.
© Kathryn Read