28th November 2013: The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)  has today announced that Agarba has been awarded MSC certification for its Barents Sea cod fishing operations. From now on, cod (Gadus morhua) caught by Agarba can bear the MSC blue fish ecolabel, helping consumers to make responsible and sustainable decisions when buying seafood products.
The certification was awarded after a full evaluation carried out by an independently accredited certifier, Food Certification International, through a participative process that was opened for public consultation. The assessment began in June 2012 and was performed against MSC environmental standard for sustainable fisheries. It found that stocks were healthy and that the fishery was well managed, with a minimal impact on the marine ecosystem.
Agarba is a member of the Vigo Shipowners’ Cooperative
AGARBA (the Spanish Association of Cod Fishing Ship Owners) holds 66% of total cod quotas in NAFO and the Barents Sea (Norwegian EEZ and Svalbard Fisheries Protection Zone). In 2013, the 4 vessels operating in the certified unit had catches totalling 12,000 tonnes. The fish method used is trawling and operations are performed in ICES subareas I and II.
AGARBA is a member of the Vigo Ship Owners Cooperative (Cooperativa de Armadores de Vigo - ARVI) and is, in turn, made up of Velaspex SL, a family business with a wealth of experience in the sector, and Pesquera Áncora SLU, a UK Fisheries group company based in the port of Vigo.
“At AGARBA, we believe that voluntary and independent certification, when backed by a credible scientific organisation such as the MSC, is a key tool for achieving sustainable fishing. What’s more, MSC certification may open the doors to new business opportunities and consolidate our presence on markets where we are already present, including as the UK, but mainly in Spain and Portugal, where the MSC label is becoming increasingly visible”, explained Iván López, Agarba chairman. He added: “In a sector under constant scrutiny and under intense pressure from conservation organisations, businesses, associations and stakeholders in general, we must not be afraid to submit to third-party sustainability appraisals in which these stakeholders participate. We may also point out that the only fishing gear we use is trawling, and as we can see in our case, no way incompatible with sustainability.”
An important example of teamwork regarding sustainability
Laura Rodríguez, MSC Spain and Portugal Country Manager, commented: “We congratulate Pesquera Ancora and Velaspex for their initiative in demonstrating the sustainability of their operations and having themselves evaluated to MSC standards. The fact that the two companies joined together to obtain the certificate is an important example of teamwork and long-term planning by businesses who share the same philosophy with regard to marine resources. As the auditors have found, Barents Sea cod stocks are in excellent health and are managed robustly, and accidental catch levels are both low and well-controlled. The assessment process has also allowed us to identify areas where improvements can be made, such as information on retained species, management of and information about protected species, and potential impacts on the marine habitat, with developments to be evaluated in fisheries monitoring audits”.
MSC, world-recognised sustainable fishing standard
The MSC environmental standard for harvested wild seafood is 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. Agarba was assessed by Food Certification International, over a period of 18 months, in an independent, collaborative and rigorous process. The fishery was evaluated on the basis of the three essential MSC principles: the status of fish stocks (Northwest Arctic cod stocks), the impact of the fishery on the marine ecosystem, and the management system used to supervise the fishery.