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Indian Ocean tuna fishery achieves MSC certification. The Echebastar Indian Ocean purse seine skipjack tuna fishery, owned by Pesqueras Echebastar, a Basque company based in Bermeo, Spain, includes five purse seiners landing tuna in the Seychelles. Certification covers the fleet’s entire skipjack catch.

Certification of the Echebastar fishery follows considerable improvements to tuna fishing practices and management in the Indian Ocean, including the implementation of harvest control rules and the improved management of fish aggregating devises (FADs). The Echebastar fishery has also implemented procedures to reduce bycatch including only using non-entangling FADs and the rapid release of unwanted catch back to the sea, ensuring higher survival rates of non-target species. One hundred percent observer coverage since 2014 also means greater confidence in data from the fishery.

Widely recognized as the world’s most rigorous and credible assessment of wild fishing sustainability, the MSC Fishery Standard is founded on three principles: healthy fish stocks, minimizing impact on the wider marine environment, and effective fishery management.

MSC certification will now provide an additional incentive to the Echebastar fishery for continued improvement. To remain certified, Echebastar has committed to work with the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) and Seychelles authorities to deliver eight conditions of certification over the next five years.  Upon completion, these will lift the fishery’s performance to best practice in areas including improved information on endangered, threatened and protected (ETP) species, new strategies to reduce the impact of FADs on coral reefs, improved scientific data on the impacts of the fishery on ecosystems and clearer processes for local stakeholder consultation.

“This certification is the culmination of many years of leadership and improvements by the fishery and the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission,” said Michel Kaiser, Science and Standards Director at the MSC. “It reflects the positive changes that have been made to improve stock management, reduce bycatch and increase confidence in reporting. This has taken hard work to achieve. To maintain certification the fishery has committed to achieve further challenging improvements which, if successful, will continue to safeguard ecosystems and habitats in the Indian Ocean. MSC certification is a long-term journey. We wish Echebastar every success in maintaining their laudable progress.”

This certification follows an 18-month assessment process by fisheries experts employed by conformity assessment body, Lloyds Register (Acoura). The assessment included in-depth analysis of scientific data including stock assessments, peer review by independent scientists and extensive stakeholder consultation.

Acoura’s final recommendation to certify the fishery was further scrutinised through an objections process overseen by independent adjudicator (IA), John McKendrick QC. The IA’s final determination was published on 24 October 2018, upholding Acoura’s determination to certify the fishery, subject to amendments which have now been made following a review by the objector WWF and the IA.