Taking Certification to the Seychelles

29 October, 2013
Martin Gill

From the far flung reaches of Russia, to the shores of the Mediterranean, our team have worked across a number of diverse, exotic and unforgettable locations as they inspect fisheries and assess aquaculture farms.

Despite the well-travelled nature of our staff, there was quite a buzz in the office when we were recently required to travel to the Seychelles to undertake an MSC site visit as part of an ongoing assessment of a large Indian Ocean tuna fishery.

Unfortunately due to illness, I had to step into the breach at short notice and ended up making the journey myself (the pressures of management!) along with the three expert assessors making up the team.

Utterly remote (a mere 900 miles east of mainland Africa) the island is a true tropical paradise.

Warm and leafy with sprawling palm beaches, work might easily have drifted from my mind if it hadn’t been for the fact the island’s fishing culture was never too far away.

Accounting for almost 97% of the islands exports, fishing has overtaken tourism as the Seychelles most important industry. And the huge vessels docked at Victoria Harbour in the capital clearly hint at the importance of tuna to all on the island.

Easily the biggest tuna producer in the Indian Ocean, some have estimated that the nation’s largest manufacturer is able to produce 1.5 million cans every day.

Echebastar Tuna, our Spanish client for this MSC full assessment, have been fishing since the late 1960s and now boast three state of the art purse seine vessels in their fleet. It’s not all plain sailing with in recent years an ever present threat of piracy in the region to the point that all vessels now carry an armed security team to provide protection against boarding.

The company catches both Yellowfin, Skipjack and Bigeye tuna and are the first company to seek MSC Sustainable Fishing Certification for an Indian Ocean based purse seine tuna fishery.  

Being the first purse seine tuna fishery to enter MSC assessment it is no surprise that this will be a very high profile assessment and one of the main aims of the visit was to begin the process of meeting with the range of stakeholders that have agreed to input to the assessment process.

My thanks go to everyone that provided the great co-operation and hospitality extended to the team during our visit, not just by the client but all stakeholders we visited and met.

My own personal favourite – fresh mahi mahi and chips cooked on board one of the tuna seiners – definitely a step up from my local fish and chip shop.

While this assessment is only in its early stages if the MSC assessment proves to be successful it will be an important step not just for Echebaster  but it will also hopefully help pave the way for other tuna fisheries wishing to prove the sustainability of their fishing operations by entering into independent assessment against the MSC standards. .

Sadly, this site visit passed all too quickly; however, next we get to visit the delights of Bermeo near Bilbao as this assessment moves to Spain in November.

Fingers crossed more opportunities in this region emerge, not just because you can enjoy a little sand and sun after work, but also because of its endearing and exciting fishing culture. 

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