Cooke Uruguay, one of the largest fleets in the region has recently achieved Friend of the Sea certification for its sustainable deep-sea crab fishing. Cooke Uruguay achieved certification by passing exhaustive controls set by external, accredited auditing bodies, owing to its sustainable practices underpinning its fishing methods.
Cooke Uruguay also represents one of the leading food processers in South America, boasting the most prominent customers in the seafood market worldwide and enjoying international recognition for its high-quality products. Cooke Uruguay is incorporated amongst the 10,000-employee strong Cooke Seafood enterprise, an aquaculture from Canada spanning two generations, propelling Cooke Uruguay’s sustainable management through the highly diversified and integrated synergies shared between the numerable Cooke Branches.
Sustainable practice represents the forefront of Cooke Uruguay’s primary objectives, building the ethical foundations of its fishing activities. The company has applied for Friend of the Sea certification to challenge its current sustainability policies, regulating both its environmental and social responsibility pledges, along with ensuring best practice in treatment of animal welfare and food safety.
“This commitment to sustainability has materialized with real actions in the management of the fishery, adopting and maintaining the correct execution of measures required by the authorities, promoting good practices beyond the established norms, and advancing towards international standards. The company has made progress in supporting scientific research and stock assessments, improving the collection of information from fishing activities and the decision-making process”, said Dr. Santiago Díaz, Advisor and Quality Manager of Cooke Uruguay.
Research conducted by the National Fishery Institute the 80s identified an excess of 22,000 tons of harvestable deep sea red crab stocks situated in Uruguay’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), representing the largest identified stock globally. Cooke Uruguay subsequently launched two vessels dedicated to the region, operating year-round to seize the unparalleled opportunity. The operating vessels have been retrofitted with modern facilities able to prepare crabs both cooked and uncooked for readymade distribution, integrating the vertical supply chain and subsequently boosting traceability. The fleet maintains strict abidance to local regulation by not exceeding the total allowable catch (TAC) (critically important given an estimated 78% of fishing fleets flout TAC rules).
Cooke Uruguay’s fishing of deep-sea crab guarantees that least possible damage is inflicted to the seabed. The vessels rely on traps, spaced 30m apart to fish crabs at depths greater than 500m. Fishing with traps is widely understood to perform substantially better than its mobile counterparts such as trawls and dredges as the traps are engineered to be highly specific, with little chances of unintended bycatch. The depth of fishing also bypasses interference with many venerable species, further reducing the chances of bycatch. Inspections of the catch also prove meticulous, with each crab measured to ensure they meet the nationally regulated carapace width limit (the size of the crab’s body across the widest part of the shell), and to ensure absolutely no females are taken.
“It is imperative that we develop proactive respect and protection of our oceans, to not only to safeguard the longevity of resources we deeply cherish, but to sustain pristine ecosystems for the many species that we share it with. For this reason, Friend of the Sea has welcomed the certification of Cooke Uruguay, joining a collective of pro-environmental Friend of the Sea verified fisheries advocating and practising greater care of our ocean”, said Paolo Bray, Founder and Director of Friend of the Sea
The Friend of the Sea certification ensures that applying entities satisfy a comprehensive list of criteria ensuring activities have the absolute minimum impact towards the environments they are active in. The sustainable fishery standard ensures that fishing stocks are not overfished, the pristine seabed remains intact, absolute minimum level of bycatch (especially amongst venerable species), compliance with regional regulations, demonstrated waste and energy management facilities and the utmost attention to social accountability.