Austral Group SAA, a member of Austevoll Seafood ASA – one of the leading fishing groups in the world – produces fishmeal and fish oil as well as canned and frozen products from various pelagic species, including anchovy and pacific mackerel. Fishmeal and fish oil is sourced from anchovies fished in the South Pacific ocean by Austral’s own fleet of 37 vessels.
“Austral Group takes environmental conservation very seriously and over the years has made great efforts to make its production sustainable” explains Mr Carlos Romero, Improvement and Change Superintendent “We had already turned to Earth Island for the Dolphin-Safe certification, so it was natural for us to request Friend of the Sea assessment as it comes from and independent NGO and it is based on the data collected by our national marine institute”.
The Friend of the Sea audit, run by an independent accredited certification body with in-depth knowledge of the audited fishery, focused on anchovies, horse and pacific mackerel. Products from anchovies and pacific mackerel obtained certification at the end of the audit process.
Peruvian anchovy (Engraulis ringens) current status is that it is not overexploited, according to data from the Peruvian Institute IMARPE. The reference point used is spawning biomass, which must be at least 5 million MT. Latest estimates indicate a biomass level of 9.38 million tonnes, almost double the Reference Point. Pacific Mackerel (Scomber japonicus) is considered as moderately to fully exploited by FAO 2005. Distribution and abundance of pelagic resources in Peru have been assessed by IMARPE through acoustic surveys since 1975. According to the FAO, discards in the Peruvian seine fisheries are near 2.5% – much lower than the average worldwide – and do not include endangered species.
The fishery is managed according to a system of global quotas (GQ) and it is opened and closed depending on the achievement of total quotas and/or the juvenile ratio. Peruvian statutory seasons / closures are based on anchovy’s spawning cycle: a summer closure during January, February and March to protect the growth of anchovy juveniles, and a winter closure starting July/August and ending in October to protect the spawning stock. Among main regulations implemented: all vessels must have a valid fishing permit and use nets with a minimum 13 mm mesh size; minimum fish size is 12 cm with a 10% tolerance; if the presence of juveniles exceeds 10% in the daily landings at a port, fishing will be stopped in this port for a minimum of three days; fishing within five miles of the coast line is prohibited; vessels travelling through this zone are not allowed to stop and must keep a minimum speed of 2 knots; all vessels must have an operating satellite positioning system on board.
Peruvian fishing companies representing over 70% of industrial boats have organized themselves into the National Fisheries Society and developed an Ethical Code of Conduct with responsible fishing as a central theme, including strict compliance with regulations. A Fishing Behaviour Code has been established which includes the owners of plants and vessels, technicians of plants, skippers and crew-members.
A system of individual fishing quota, called Maximum Permissible Quotas per Boat, is expected to be enforced in 2009 for the anchovy fishery confirming the commitment of Peruvian authorities to preserve marine resources and reinforce sustainable fishing activities.
In 2005, Austral obtained the ISO 14001 certification for Environmental Management, the first fishing company in South America to do so. Austral is currently undergoing the SA8000 audit for Social Accountability at one of its plants. It is certified Dolphin Safe by the Earth Island Institute and in 2008 was awarded by the Peruvian government the national prize for the cleanest and most eco-efficient production. Fisheries associations with organizations such as APROPISCO in the Paracas Bay have implemented important and effective programs to eliminate pollution and thus reduce the impact on the local flora and fauna. Furthermore Austral operating procedures are respectful of the existing Marine Protected Areas created for the protection of Peruvian marine birds and important ecosystems.