The announcement was made at a press conference attended by Basque government representatives Jon Azkue, Deputy Regional Minister for Fisheries and the Food Industry, and Jokin DÃaz, Director for Fisheries and Aquaculture; Pescafria Manager Francisco RodrÃguez; MSC Regional Director for Europe Nicolas Guichoux, and Laura RodrÃguez, MSC Spain and Portugal Country Manager.
MSC runs the leading international environmental certification for wild-fish fisheries.
Over one year, a group of experts from independent, accredited certification body Food Certification International scrutinised and analysed Pescafriaâ€™s cod fishing operations, assessing the fishery on the basis of the three MSC environmental principles with regard to sustainable fish stocks (in this case, northeast Arctic cod), environmental impact on the marine ecosystem, and the effective management of fishing operations.
For PESCAFRIA, the certificate is given in recognition of a strategy based on professionalism and on respect for marine resources.
Cod fished by PESCAFRIA-Pesquera RodrÃguez can now be sold with the MSC ecolabel, already widely-sought by consumers in northern European markets and increasingly so in Spain also.
PESCAFRIA-Pesquera RodrÃguez SA, which markets its products under the PESCAFRIA brand, was founded in 1940.
A family-owned company, it has headquarters in the Basque Country and in Galicia. PESCAFRIA holds 27.50% of the Spanish cod quota, which translates into approximately 4000 tonnes, the largest national quota.
The UK is the companyâ€™s major market for seafood products and frozen cod fillets and PESCAFRIA also exports to France, Holland, Norway and Portugal, among other markets.
A small part of their production, including salt cod and frozen cod fillets, is marketed in Spain.
Pescafria Manager Francisco Rodriguez became aware of the MSC programme and ecolabel through the certification of pollack fisheries in Alaska.
In his opinion: â€œGetting MSC certification consolidates our position in export markets increasingly aware of the need to consume wild fishery seafood products, which are the only really sustainable products.
Contrary to what we usually hear, and thanks to proper management over the years, cod stocks in the Arctic Ocean are actually at record numbers.
This guarantees supplies of a fish which plays such a major role in our gastronomic traditions for future generations.â€
Jon Azkue, Basque Regional Minister for Fisheries and the Food Industry, called for â€œsustainability to guarantee the future of fish stocks and of fishingâ€, and underlined the Basque governmentâ€™s â€œfull commitment to the scientific study of the oceans and ocean species, something we are doing at AZTI-Tecnalia with a view to basing all fishing-related decisions on real understanding.â€
Nicolas Guichoux, European Director of MSC said: "Spain is a major player in global commercial fishing so the certification of PESCAFRIA, the first fishery in Spain to gain MSC certification, is another milestone for MSC and for sustainability."
"I would like to congratulate Francisco RodrÃguez from PESCAFRIA for his leadership and vision and the Basque Government which supported this application since day one.
I have no doubt that many other Spanish fisheries will follow the example of PESCAFRIA, not only because of increasing demand from export markets but also thanks to the growing interest of Spanish stakeholders and consumers in sustainable seafood".
Laura RodrÃguez, MSC Spain and Portugal Country Manager, said: â€œCertifying the first Spanish fishery has given MSC enormous satisfaction.
It is an important step in showing that Spanish fisheries can live up to the most demanding standards.
We hope that certification will open great new commercial opportunities for Pescafria and be an effective tool for long-term fishery management.â€
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