The sustainable extraction and transformation of hydrobiological resources is a key activity for the care and protection of our oceans. It is for this reason that the companies operating in this sector need to play their part and be conscious about the future. Tecnológica de Alimentos SA, (TASA) is a good example of just such a company. In its daily work it has implemented a program known as “Best sustainable fishing practices using an ecosystem approach”.
“We have taught our partners to become sustainability agents”, states Carlos Pinillos, General Manager of this company that operates between Ilo and Paita and has 48 vessels that provide employment to more than 1,000 people. Among their many practices, the crews of the company’s boats adhere to closed seasons; impose their own prohibitions on fish below a certain size; safely release species such as birds, turtles, and sea lions that become trapped in nets; and record information that is invaluable for studying the special place that is the ocean.
“We generate quantitative information that we share with IMARPE about various fish species, as well as oceanographic information: salinity, temperature. Everything we see is recorded in a fishing log”, explains Pinillos.
This gathering of information began in 2008 when the crews were first trained to record and identify what they observed during their fishing voyages each day: they would note the place and coordinates of every sighting, from humpback whales, to birds—such as boobies, pelicans and guanay cormorant. According to Pinillos there were more than 4,000 sightings in 2014 alone. The most frequently recorded species were birds, dolphins, sea lions, whales, and turtles.
This recording work is vital. In addition to allowing TASA to better understand the context in which it operates, it forms the foundation of a vision perfectly aligned with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14, which includes effectively regulating fisheries; ending excessive, illegal, unreported and uncontrolled fishing; eradicating destructive fishing practices; and the design and implementation of scientifically based management regimes to restore affected fish stocks in the shortest possible time frame.
“Awareness raising generates neither more fish nor more income, but it does provide a future for the sea and for its sustainable use”, states Dereck Zimmerman, TASA Central Fishing Manager. Everyone wins from this approach, as General Manager Carlos Pinillos explains: “Sustainability for a fishing company means being able to maintain the economic activity over the long term. That is why our focus is on ensuring that anchovy, caballa, and jack mackerel continue”.
TASA adheres strictly to the five nautical mile protection limit and to established minimum sizes. The company’s own self-imposed prohibitions are controlled from its Satellite Control Center. It also has its own Center for Oceanographic Research and Sustainability, a Fisheries Center, and a prospecting vessel named Quimera 2, which provides quality scientific information that is useful not only for its own operations, but also for its cooperation with IMARPE. Each vessel also houses useful items for its crew: a guide for identifying the main species of apex predators; a guide to restricted areas for fishing operations; fish meters for measurement so as to respect minimum size limits; and pingers—acoustic devices that are placed in nets to warn dolphins and prevent them becoming entangled.
TASA has also created its Programa Cuidamar (Oceancare Program), a group of 100 crew members (two for each vessel) who promote and assure compliance with best on-board sustainability practices, the correct identification and release of marine apex predators, and proper separation and disposal of solid waste.
“We began on our own, but are now at the point of sharing these practices. Indeed, little by little, these systems are being accepted by the National Fisheries Society. TASA constitutes 14% of the national fleet. Imagine if 100% began to do this as well”, asks Pinillos.
Since the start of TASA’s operations, it has been winning prizes for responsible fishing, been awarded certifications—such as the IFFO-RS (Responsible Supply) or the FOS (Friends of the Sea) —and has become part of the “Peru Business and Biodiversity Initiative”, driven by the Ministry of the Environment (MINAM). Sustainability is part of its DNA. There is no doubt that if this model continues to be replicated, the fishing companies will become the Peruvian ocean’s most important allies.
A story from the MINAM series “Biodiversity and business”. Photos: Enrique Cúneo