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PAST backs tuna’s future

Rob Fletcher
Rob Fletcher
08 September 2017, at 9:12am

A group of 36 Mexican purse seine vessels has achieved Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification for its yellowfin and skipjack tuna landings.

The Pacific Alliance for Sustainable Tuna (PAST) is made up of vessels operated by Grupomar, Herdez del Fuerte, Pesca Azteca, and Procesa and operates the Northeastern Tropical Pacific purse seine yellowfin and skipjack tuna fishery. The fishery was deemed to comply with all requirements of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) and to adhere 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.

"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,” said Brian Perkins, MSC’s regional director for the Americas. “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.”

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 PAST, said: “Our members…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.” 

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 US$750 million to the Mexican economy.