Mexican Gulf of California Pacific sardine fishery now MSC certified; Stakeholders negotiate to resolve objection in open, transparent process

July 25, 2011 09:20

Mexico's largest fishery by volume, the Pacific sardine (Sardinops sagax) fishery in the Gulf of California, has been certified following independent assessment to the MSC standard for sustainable, well-managed fisheries. Demonstrating the strength of the MSC's open and transparent stakeholder process, an objection formally lodged against the fishery's certification has been resolved through consultation-clearing the way for the fishery's certification, reports with reference to MSC.

About the fishery

Cámara Nacional de la Industria Pesquera, Delegación Sonora is the fishery client, and 90 percent of vessels fishing the Gulf of California for sardines are included in the Unit of Certification. Fish caught in the Mexican sardine fishery form large schools that are fished by purse seines, hauled on board and landed mostly by fish pumps. In the 2009/2010 season landings of Pacific sardines were 256,000 metric tons in the Gulf of California. About 85 percent of the total production is used for reduction to fish meal. Sardines are also packed in cans for sale into domestic and international markets.

"The members of the Cámara Nacional de la Industria Pesquera, Delegación Sonora, are pleased and proud that we have met all the principles set forward by the MSC required for the certification," said Leon Tissot, president of the Cámara Nacional de la Industria Pesquera, Delegación Sonora. "The certification is important because it sends a clear message that it is possible to fish in a responsible way in accordance to the FAO fishing code, by being certified we are committed to fish in a responsible, sustainable and environmentally friendly way. With this certification we assert our commitment to the environment and the sustainability of the fishery in the Gulf of California."

Stakeholders work together to resolve objection

Comunidad y Biodiversidad (COBI) A.C., a Mexican marine conservation organization, raised an objection on behalf of several non-governmental organizations and scientists from the region. After a series of consultations between the certification body (Scientific Certification Systems), stakeholders and client, the parties came to agreement about the necessary steps and amendments to modify the client action plan that would satisfy all involved. Revision to the action plan included a commitment from the fishery client to provide the opportunity for the objectors to participate in the design and execution of the work to fulfill fishery improvements required as part of the certification. It also included a more rigorous design of the monitoring and reporting system, as well as higher coverage of the fishing fleet with on-board observers to record bycatch and interactions with endangered, threatened and protected species (ETP).

"A group of Mexican marine conservation NGOs and scientists followed this process closely and reached an agreement in the last phase of this assessment to collaborate, welcoming the invitation of Cámara Nacional de la Industria Pesquera to be more involved with the fishery," said Dr. Luis Bourillon, Mesoamerican Reef director for Comunidad y Biodiversidad, A.C. "This opens a new phase of collaboration to ensure that the largest fishery in Mexico will be sustainable for generations to come."

"The certification of the sardine fishery in the Gulf of California is a great achievement for the members of this industry and the communities involved," said Priciliano Melendrez, undersecretary for Fisheries and Aquaculture of the State of Sonora. "This certification reaffirms the State of Sonora as a national leader, not only in fish production, but in sustainability, which has been an objective of the present administration. We will continue to support fishermen who decide to undertake sustainability projects, and we will keep working with NGO's like COBI. We are currently in talks to support the certification process of other fisheries in the State of Sonora."

"The certification of the Pacific sardine fishery is excellent news for Mexico. This is recognition of the joint efforts of the productive sector, researchers and authorities, which have worked many years in supporting a fishery based on technical information and cooperation," said Ramon Corral Avila, commissioner of the National Commission of Aquaculture and Fishing (CONAPESCA). "The collaboration between the fishery industry, fishermen, businessmen, specialists, administrators and NGOs, for the development of responsible fishing has been demonstrated. This is a notable contribution to the sustainability of fishing especially in the Gulf of California. With it, this Mexican fishery has contributed to improving the health of the oceans for the benefit of nature and society including fishermen and consumers."

What the MSC says

"This assessment and certification to the MSC standard is a great example of the fishing industry, conservation organizations and other fishery stakeholders coming together in a transparent, consensus building process to address issues around sustainability," said Kerry Coughlin, regional director for MSC Americas. "The MSC congratulates the Gulf of California, Mexico Pacific sardine fishery, COBI and all involved on this milestone and collaboration model for other fisheries in the region and around the world."

About the certifier

Scientific Certification Systems was the certifier for this assessment. During the assessment, the three principles of the MSC standard were evaluated in detail: the status of the fish stock, the impact of the fishery on the marine ecosystem and the management system overseeing the fishery. More information about the Gulf of California, Mexico Pacific sardine fishery, the complete Public Certification Report detailing the fishery's passing scores against the MSC standard and the agreement reached by the parties can be found on MSC's web site at

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