Atlantic Ocean Tuna – OPAGAC

Fishery Improvement Projects

Atlantic Ocean Tuna - OPAGAC

  • Species Name: Skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis), Yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares), and Bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus).
  • Location/Region: Atlantic Ocean, ICCAT area of competence, FAO Areas 31 and 34
  • Gear Type: Purse seine
  • Volume: 95,000 mt

Home | Fisheries | Transitioning Fisheries | Atlantic Ocean Tuna – OPAGAC

Atlantic Ocean Tuna Purse Seine


FIP Stage: 4 (Improvements in Fishing Practices or Fishery Management)
Last Updated: May 2020

In the tropical waters of the Atlantic, OPAGAC represents 18 purse seine vessels, catching approximately 28% of the region’s total tropical tuna catch. Most of the fleet’s tuna is processed in regional facilities with most of the canned product exported to markets in Europe.

The management measures adopted by the International Convention for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) have not been effective to maintain the catches of tropical tuna stocks at the agreed levels. As an example, bigeye tuna is currently overfished and overfishing is occurring. There are also problems with data available for some important fleets (e.g. Ghana, Brazil).

The active involvement of FIP Stakeholders, including International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF), Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ), Pew Charitable Trusts, AZTI, the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO) and the Spanish Secretary-General for Fisheries (SGP), drives improvements against the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard.



FIP efforts address governance, fishing practices, and environmental impacts of the fishery so that it can meet the MSC standard. This work is steered by FIP participants and FIP stakeholders and includes:
  • Promoting and assisting improved management of tropical tuna stocks by ICCAT, through adoption of reference points and Harvest Control Rules for those stocks;

  • Promoting improved governance at both the Regional Fishery Management Organization (RFMO) and flag state level, in particular better compliance with RFMO requirements and measures;

  • Promoting research to better evaluate the impacts of the tuna purse seine fishery on both target stocks and the ecosystem (e.g., impacts of Fishing AggregatingDevices (FADs));

  • Implementing actions to reduce, minimize and mitigate any potential detrimental effects that the purse seine fishery has on the ecosystem;

  • OPAGAC submitted proposals for the next phase of the ABNJ Project and are willing to engage in future activities planned for GEF-7 Common Oceans ABNJ Program, including support to a Regional Observer Pilot Programme in the Atlantic Ocean;

  • A MoU was signed between the association and International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) to collaborate in a project coordinated by ISSF, with support provided by the Common Oceans ABNJ Tuna Project, to test the use of biodegradable and non-entangling FADs in the Atlantic Ocean – the Atlantic was the only ocean where the fleet wasn’t participating yet on a biodegradable FAD project.


We encourage action across the supply chain to support FIP progress. A FIP Participant is an industry member that is part of the seafood supply chain for the FIP product and is actively engaged in supporting the FIP.


The Marine Stewardship Council uses 28 performance indicators to assess the sustainability of fisheries. The chart represents the percentage of indicators that would likely pass, pass with conditions for improvement, or fail upon the fishery’s full assessment.

Atlantic Ocean Tropical Tuna (OPAGAC) FIP Status

Initial Assessment

Implementing Improvements

We use a step-wise process to evaluate the fishery’s performance and identify sustainability issues, and then to implement improvements and report results. Want to dive deeper into this FIP’s progress on each of the MSC performance indicators? Visit


The fishery has achieved the following impacts through improved practices and management
  • Release of OPAGACs FAD data to AZTI for analysis with the goal of developing purse seine abundance indices for tropical tunas, which if possible, would be a major step forward for stock assessment, particularly for skipjack;

  • Evaluation and promotion of alternative management ICCAT could implement to successfully maintain tropical tuna stocks around target reference points);

  • Assistance to a capacity building activity to support São Tomé e Príncipe in the Regional Observer Programme, promoted by ICCAT;

  • Promoting flag state compliance by working with states where OPAGAC have vessels flagged (Curaçao, Panama, El Salvador, Guatemala, Belize) in order to support compliance with ICCAT reporting requirements;

  • Promoting the implementation of actions in the FIP workplan (e.g. through Resolutions’ proposals) with relevant Flag states that are a Contracting Party or Cooperating non-Contracting Party, Entity or Fishing Entity (CPC ) of ICCAT;

  • in 2019, scientists developed a novel index of abundance of juvenile yellowfin tuna in the Atlantic Ocean derived from echosounder buoys for the period 2010-2017, a direct result from OPAGAC releasing its FAD data.

©Kyle LaFerriere / WWF-US

Get FIP Updates Delivered Straight to Your Inbox

October 3, 2019

Do you want to receive monthly updates on how your favorite FIPs are coming along? subscribers can use the “Follow This FIP” tool to receive monthly emails from FisheryProgress highlighting major changes in the improvement projects they choose to follow.