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Several years after the MarinTrust Improver Programme (IP) approved the Panama small pelagics fishery, the fishmeal and fish oil production plants sourcing from it have demonstrated full compliance and just gained MarinTrust certification.

Some of the main improvements made in this fishery include a new management plan and the setting of Total Allowable Catches. An onboard observer program was also initiated. This enabled the collection of information on the size and maturity of the target species. Moreover, the ecosystem impacts endangered species. As a result of the findings of the observers’ program, fishermen regularly release vulnerable species alive.

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“Back in the 2010s, the Panama small pelagics fishery was data poor. Along with inadequate records of effort or landings. The market had started demanding third-party proof of sustainability. So, something needed to be done,” explained Ernesto Godelman, Executive director of CeDePesca, that initiated the project.

A thorough process

The process leading to obtaining the certification involves the fishery passing the full MarinTrust fishery assessment and the site passing a third-party audit by a certification body. “This thorough process ensures not only that marine ingredients come from non-IUU fisheries that are managed by the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries but also that production is carried out to high standards of safety and quality, with sufficient care given to the environment, workforce, and local community,” said Nicola Clark, Impacts Manager at MarinTrust.

Therefore, plants producing certified products can claim the MarinTrust certification and use the MarinTrust logo. Once certified, sites are required to have annual surveillance audits as part of the 3-year certification cycle. Besides, it must undergo a recertification audit every three years to maintain certification status. The fisheries assessment component of the standard includes an annual surveillance audit and full re-assessment every 3 years.

Marketing Panamanian fishmeal and fish oil have included animal feeds in since 1965. Brian Murtagh, Managing Director, and also the leader of the Fishery Improvement Project, noted: “The fishery mainly targets Pacific anchovy and Pacific thread herring. Today, Europe buys the majority of the fish oil for use in the salmon feed industry. While China, North America, and countries neighboring Panama are the main market for fishmeal. This is used in swine, aquaculture, and pet food diets.”

FIP history

The Fishery Improvement Project (FIP) for the Panama small pelagic fishery started in 2011. As an initiative of CeDePesca, a non-profit organization founded in 1997. The aim is to help Latin American fisheries become sustainable, along with Promarina SA, the most important local producer. Procesadora Bayano SA (Probasa) runs it also. MarinTrust Improver Programme accepted the FIP for the first time.

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Flor Torrijos, General Administrator at Panama’s ARAP (Autoridad de Los Recursos Acuaticos y Pesqueros- Fishery and Aquatic Resources Authority) concludes: “This recognition is the result of more than seven years of hard work in the fishing sector. Also, an indication that our nation guarantees good practices in the industry, consolidating investments that focus their strengths on consistent improvements, in the short and medium term, aligned with the interests of conscientious consumers committed to nature around the world.

“This achievement that we obtain today goes hand in hand with the regulations that promote the protection of marine species. In balance with a sustainable fishing activity that generates wealth, employment, and a secure source of food. Panama demonstrates that it adapts to the demands of 21st-century society. Adopts legislation that promotes the protection of marine resources and ensures compliance.”

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