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Commercial Fishing



MSC certificates suspended for Bay of Biscay sardine fisheries. The MSC certificates for the South of Brittany purse seine sardine fishery in France, and the Spanish Bay of Biscay purse seine sardine fishery, will be suspended on 12 March 2019. This was announced in the Notice of Suspension which was issued by the independent certifier, Bureau Veritas.

The suspension follows the publication, in July 2018, of updated scientific advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) that revised the understanding of the sustainability of the sardine stock and consequently advised a reduction in fishing effort.

While the Bay of Biscay sardine stock remains healthy, fishing effort is now considered to be significantly above what is consistent with achieving Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY). This can pose a risk to low trophic level and short-lived species, such as sardine, because they can experience large fluctuations in stock size over very short timeframes. As a result, the current fishing effort is now thought to be too high.

Edouard le Bart, Deputy Director South Europe and AMESA said: “This news is extremely disappointing for the French and Spanish sardine fishers who have worked hard together over the years to manage their fishing effort and their fisheries sustainability. This new scientific advice changes the game, but the efforts the fisheries have made so far are not in vain. On the contrary, the sardine stock remains healthy, and I strongly encourage fisheries to continue efforts to adapt to these new circumstances and, I hope, to recover their certification in the future.”

The independent certifier, Bureau Veritas, carried out audits to explore the consequences of this new scientific advice. An expedited audit for the French fishery and a full annual surveillance for the Spanish fishery concluded that the necessary re-scoring against the MSC Fisheries Standard would trigger the suspension of the MSC certification of both fisheries.

“We have been working together with the French Fishing Sector and the scientist of IFREMER and AZTI over the last two years, with the aim of improving the management of the fishery and to agree upon a strong harvest control rule, which guarantees the sustainability of the fishery in the long term. Although this work has not been enough to avoid the suspension of the fishery, we maintain a firmly commitment to continue this work, together with the science community and all stakeholders, for the adoption of a robust management plan,” said Miren Garmendia, General Secretary of the Federation of Fishing Guilds of Guipuzcoa.

The fisheries have 90 days from the Notice of Suspension, issued on the 11 February, to prepare a corrective action plan. The suspension will remain in place until the action plan brings the fishery back in line with the MSC Standard. In this case, that means the fisheries will need to demonstrate that management mechanisms are in place to ensure that catches on this stock are in line with the new ICES scientific advice. If an adequate corrective action plan is not submitted within the 90 day limit then the certifier is required to withdraw the certificate.

Fisheries affected