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Madrid. WWF and the Organization of Associated Producers of Large Tuna Freezers (OPAGAC) will cooperate to improve the sustainability and transparency of tropical tuna fisheries in all of the world’s oceans. They convened to launch a Fishery Improvement Project (FIP) to help establish an appropriate management framework and good fishing practices that meet the sustainability standards set by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and guarantee the sustainable fishing of tropical tuna stocks. OPAGAC, representing 40 Spanish purse seiners that operate in the Atlantic, the Pacific and the Indian Ocean, committed to important improvements of its fishing operations to reach MSC certification in 5 years.

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A growing number of tropical tuna fisheries are overfished, such as bigeye tuna in the Western Pacific, yellowfin tuna in the Indian Ocean, or the Atlantic bigeye tuna. This worrying trend is a result of the lack of effective measures taken by Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs), such as the non-existence of establishing harvest control rules and well-defined reference points for tuna, poor or no management of fishing capacity in most international fisheries, which has significantly increased the world fleet in recent years, the lack of proper management of fish aggregating devices (FADs), and insufficient control of the activities of long-line fishing vessels targeting tuna or the illegal use of driftnets.

In order to prepare the work plan for the FIP, OPAGAC hired the fisheries consulting firm MRAG who conducted a pre-assessment of tropical tuna fisheries fished by OPAGAC vessels in the Atlantic, Indian, Eastern Pacific and Central and Western Pacific Oceans. WWF evaluated and completed the information from the pre-assessment, and together WWF and OPAGAC are now creating a FIP action plan. WWF, OPAGAC and other partners will work together through the FIP to ensure that the RFMOs responsible for the management of tropical tuna fisheries adopt appropriate regulatory frameworks for yellowfin, skipjack and bigeye tuna fisheries. The regulatory frameworks need harvest strategies and fishing levels based on the best available science, and that allow for maximum sustainable yield (MSY).