pesca de atún en bermeo

“The Bermeo tuna industries are working on sustainability in a cutting-edge and exemplary way”

Ignacio Serrats
President of Bermeo Tuna World Capital

Ignacio Serrats is the president of Bermeo Tuna World Capital (BTWC), the public-private alliance seeking to involve all the key players in the tuna value chain in Bermeo, the Basque Country, and internationally in the sustainable management of tuna as a natural resource. As we have to look towards the future of a planet whose population is increasing at full speed thus requiring more resources to feed the same, we need to create synergies based on scientific knowledge and the leadership of good practices to work on the sector sustainability.

How and why did the Bermeo Tuna Forum (BTF) come about?

There are two pillars which support the project at BTWC, the most important being the BTF because that’s where we’ll be making visible everything we want to do. In Bermeo, our home, we can say we’re the best; however, where there’s international recognition (this is what we’re looking for with the alliance of cities and signing of an international declaration, which is the ultimate goal for tuna sustainability), then that’s when the BTWC finally makes sense. Until now, being alone in Bermeo and saying that we do everything very well (laughs) is important; however, all this makes sense when there’s international recognition, which is the cornerstone.

10% of the world tuna catches are made by the Bermeo fleet

What does the signing of an International Declaration Agreement on Tuna Sustainability and it being done here mean for the sector?

Bermeo is important within the tuna sector because 10% of all catches worldwide are achieved by the fleet of a town with a population of 18,000, which is no mean feat. All the Bermeo tuna industries today are working on sustainability in a cutting-edge and exemplary way. What we’re looking for regarding such an important resource as this is for Bermeo (tuna) and the world is for it to be sustainable. And, if we do this by looking after the seas, sailors, fleets and the entire value chain, then there’s a future. Otherwise, what might happen? Basically we’d be destroying the resource. Therefore, from this standpoint we want to drive the sustainability of tuna using as an important basis science, where we rely on at AZTI, which is an extremely important pillar. That’s in relation to deep-sea fishing; nevertheless, we also have to mention albacore tuna (not always referred to enough), since both the Basque and Cantabrian fleets hold the MSC label certification, which is doing enormous work on sustainability.

What are the main challenges the tuna sector will face in the short-medium term?

The important thing is that tuna is a resource which at the moment is in good conditions regarding current numbers in the different seas and different kinds of fish. Our aim is to sustainably manage tuna fishing, not only regarding the resource but also those involved, i.e. we want both deep-sea and inshore fishermen to be respected as people in addition to having a worker’s dignity, likewise in terms of the whole value chain. And this will enable us to have tuna, yellowfin and albacore tuna in 50 years’ time, otherwise, as the population will continue growing and we’re going to want more and more tuna, we will end up making it extinct, so unless we take steps now, we will end up making it extinct.

Doing a sustainable management of tuna fishing today will lead us to be able to have this resource in 50 years

Need to raise awareness

And, are we on the right road?

There’s still much to be done on this topic in terms of awareness. We’re doing well regarding the amount of resource available; however, when is the right time to draw up a contract between two people? When there are no problems, because if we do it when problems appear then this is how arguments start. So, today the fleet of Bermeo is exemplary in their respect for the seas and we want these rules, which we’re applying and we are convinced are necessary for the future, to be assumed by the rest as theirs. In that way, we’ll all be working with the same rules and respecting the future of the sea.

What main idea would you like to remain on the table post-BTF?

That this international declaration has been a participatory success, likewise a reality involving everyone from the FAO, UN, tuna cities and Alliance of cities for tuna sustainability.