The sustainability certificate has been awarded to the cooperative’s grooved carpet shell clam (Venerupis decussata), pullet carpet shell clam (Venerupis corrugata), Manila clam (Venerupis philippinarum) and cockle (Cerastoderma edule) fisheries.
The MSC operates the world's leading environmental standards programme for fisheries. Obtaining the certification is a very important milestone for the cooperative, signifying recognition for a fisheries strategy based on professionalism and respect for marine resources.
The clams and cockles caught by the cooperative in the Ría de Arosa are now eligible to bear the blue MSC ecolabel, which assures shoppers and seafood buyers that the seafood is traceable to a sustainable, MSC-certified fishery, and which provides a simple and reliable means of ensuring sustainable seafood choices.
400 Members Motivated by Recognition for the Sustainability of their Work
The Spanish Ría de Arosa Cooperative, based out of Boiro (Abanqueiro, La Coruña), has more than 400 members, all of whom take part in environmental management tasks to ensure the sustainability of the fisheries. Motivated by recognition for the sustainability of theirfishery and management practices , they applied for MSC assessment in 2009, with the support of the American Resources Legacy Fund.
Traditional Fishing Methods, Where Group Work is Important
The cooperative harvests some 20 metric tonnes of seafood per year, working from boats or on the shore. Clam fishing boats are small in size (about 5 m long) and fishers use a long-handled rake known as the vara larga.
The teeth of the rake are far apart enough to ensure that no clams below the legal minimum size are caught. Every 45 minutes, supervisors from the cooperative check the harvest and classify the catch by species and size.
When fishing from the shore, fishers work in areas that have previously been marked off, using a type of rake known as the sacho. Under this method, the harvest is checked and classified every 30 minutes. The harvest is graded on the shore, and special attention is paid to minimum sizes. The activity is supervised by the technical team, the president of the cooperative, or a person appointed by either of these, and all specimens under the minimum size are returned to their natural habitat.
The Cooperative has also invested in a clam breeding cage, with the aim of improving fishery conditions.
The harvest is sold from the cooperative’s new facilities, which include a packing shed. This is the principal outlet for catches for both the regional and national markets.
Cooperative President Juan Dieste explained how the Rio de Arosa cooperative is a pioneer in the Galician seafood sector, implementing policies that have allowed them to stand out in such a fragmented market, by means of developing new activities and exploiting greater opportunities.
“The MSC environmental standard for sustainable fishing verifies the sustainability of our model, positioning our production under the umbrella of an ecolabel that represents more than 10 per cent of catches worldwide, and giving Galicia Spain’s first certified clams and cockles.”
Low Environmental Impact
Laura Rodríguez, MSC Spain and Portugal Country Manager, commented: “The Ría de Arosa cooperative is a pioneer among Spanish small-scale fisheries by applying for MSC certification, and has come through an extremely exacting process with flying colours. Being able to choose MSC certified Galician seafood is great news for all businesses and individuals looking for sustainable seafood options. We thank all members of the cooperative who joined forces to rise to this challenge.”
World-Recognised Exacting Standards
MSC certification standards for harvested wild seafood are the most widely-recognised and accepted worldwide. The programme is based on tough scientific standards and independent third-party assessment by internationally-accredited certification bodies. The Ría de Arosa Cooperative was assessed by Bureau Veritas Certification over a period of one year, in an independent, collaborative and demanding process. The MSC standard is based on three essential principles: the status of fish stocks, the impact of the fishery on the marine ecosystem, and the management system used to supervise the fishery.
The assessment found a healthy stock status and that the fisheries are well managed, with a minimal impact on the marine ecosystem.