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Portuguese Industry Works to Reinstate MSC Certification

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ANALYSIS - Back in January 2012, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification of the Portuguese sardine purse seine fishery was suspended. Charlotte Johnston, TheFishSite editor looks at what measures the Portuguese industry has taken since the suspension was imposed and how close they are to regaining MSC certification.

January 2012 - Sardine Fishery Suspended

The fishery was first certified in January 2010. However, the second surveillance audit carried out in December 2011 found the stock status of the sardine to be lower than recommended to ensure sustainable reproduction of the stock. The audit also highlighted an absence of appropriate harvest controls. Both of these findings meant that the fishery no longer confirmed to MSC standards.

In 2011, the estimated total catches of the Portuguese fleet were 55,000 tonnes, of which 17,000 tonnes were caught in low season, and 38,000 tonnes in the high season.

The high season for sardine runs from June to December, where more than 70 per cent of captures are taken.

51,000 tonnes is the recommended catch for the entire stock in 2012 (which includes Portugal and Spain).

Industry Works Together to Overcome Suspension

Since the announcement of the suspension, Laura Rodriguez, MSC Country Manager for Spain and Portugal told TheFishSite that the Portuguese government has shown a very high committment towards the MSC programme, and has taken several measures in order to maintain the certification of the fishery.

All stakeholders of the industry, including fishermen, processors, retailers and scientists have supported the measures, despite short-term affects on income, she said.

A Sardine Commission made up of fishery representatives, the Portuguese government, the canning association, and research body Ipimar, has worked with Anopcerco - the Portuguese Association of Purse Seine Producers Organisations to come up with a range of measures in a corrective action plan to help sardine stocks recover.

Corrective Action Plan

On 1st of February, the Secretary of State of the Sea approved an Order (Despacho No. 1520/2012), which stated: In 2012, uncertainty regarding actual stock status requires the adoption of management and control measures for the fishery, in spite of the review of stock to be conducted in the first semester of the year.

Following on the from this the government announced a maximum landing of sardines of 9,000 tonnes between 1 January to 31 May, and a total quota of 27,000 tonnes for the period June to December. Overall this represents at 35 per cent reduction from 2011 catches.

As well as this a compulsory 45-day fishing ban has been set and approved for each production region and a 48 hour ban on fishing at weekends has been implemented.

Docapesca, a state-owned company under management of the Ministry of Agriculture, Sea, Environment and Physical Planning, will monitor compliance with the Order on a monthly basis.

The action plan identified the strong need for coordination with Spanish fisheries authorities, as sardine stocks are fished between the two countries.

What next?

The last benchmark carried out in February 2012 showed more optimistic results regarding the status of the stock. Current biomass is 15 per cent below Blim (307,000 tonnes). Blim is the minimal biomass needed to ensure the sustainable reproduction of the stock.

A new analysis of the stock, scheduled for July 2012, will provide more information on how the sardine stocks have reacted to these measures implemented earlier in the year.

If this assessment does not show adequate results, the industry must wait until further analysis in July 2013.

"Although the fishery is taking the right measures to overcome the suspension, it is not possible to predict when the stock will recover," Ms Rodriguez concluded.

Further Reading

- Go to our previous news item on this story by clicking here.