Collective Impact: Fisheries and Inter-Sectoral Collaboration

Eric Mercier
Published: 15 October 2015
Last edited: 30 September 2020
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Quintana Roo (Mexico) has a high marine productivity, but over-fishing and coastal development are leading to a decline of key ecosystems due to pollution and habitat loss. Climate Change is an additional stress factor to this already impacted environment. Lack of artisanal fishermen’s participation in fisheries management has resulted in unsustainable species extraction. To enable change and facilitate collaboration for conservation, the Kanan Kay Alliance was founded as an inter-sectorial coalition promoting shared responsIbility through collective action. Its goal is to protect 20% of the territorial sea through a network of fish refuges; fostering fishermen's participation in fisheries management.


Scale of implementation
Coral reef
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Access and benefit sharing
Coastal and marine spatial management
Ecosystem services
Fisheries and aquaculture
Legal & policy frameworks
Local actors
Sustainable livelihoods
Traditional knowledge
Unsustainable harvesting incl. Overfishing
Physical resource extraction
Changes in socio-cultural context
Lack of technical capacity
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Poor monitoring and enforcement
Poor governance and participation
Sustainable development goals
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
SDG 12 – Responsible consumption and production
SDG 14 – Life below water
SDG 17 – Partnerships for the goals
Aichi targets
Target 5: Habitat loss halved or reduced
Target 6: Sustainable management of aquatic living resources
Target 11: Protected and conserved areas
Target 14: Ecosystem services
Target 18: Traditional knowledge
Target 19: Sharing information and knowledge
Sendai Framework
Target 2: Reduce the number of affected people globally by 2030
Target 3: Reduce direct disaster economic loss in relation to GDP by 2030


Quintana Roo, México



  • Overexploitation of fished stocks.
  • Lack of effective adaptive management tools, especially in the face of climate change.
  • No-take fishing zones are still low in coverage.
  • Need for sustained protection in time, and bigger surfaces, in order to understand and evaluate all ecological impacts.
  • Lack of effective connectivity between no-take zones.


  • Poor enforcement poses the major threat not only for biodiversity replenishment, but also hindering social acceptance and support for this fisheries management tool.
  • Fish refuges are a fairly new strategy in Mexico, given that the first no-take areas have just been renewed for the first time at national level and are no more than 5 years old. This generates uncertainty about the mechanisms of participation of the fishing sector in the definition of public policies.


  • Need to evaluate ecosystem services and asses environmental value.
  • Need to improve tools for understanding and implementing blue economy solutions.


  • Fishing organizations
  • Civil society organizations
  • Local, regional and national government
  • Academia (researchers)
  • Private initiative: Tourism sector (diving, recreational fishing) and local businesses (fish and seafood shops)

How do the building blocks interact?

Theory of change based on the steps needed to foster collective impact: 

  1. Empowerment of fishermen. A comprehensive diagnosis on the socio-economic situation of the fishing organizations needs to be conducted prior to start working with coastal communities. This includes a gap-analysis and finally, capacity-building is provided.
  2.  Once the socioeconomic universe is understood, inter-sectorial collaboration is fostered by the backbone organization (Kanan Kay Alliance) and follow-up is conducted.
  3. It is time for on-the-field work. It is crucial to achieve specific and tangible results at early stages so that the momentum and motivation for change is maintained. In the Alliance, we choose to do that by implementing a specific fisheries management tool (fish refuges). 
  4. Financial compensation needs to be addressed to prove that conservation efforts are not confronted to sustainable economic growth. Fishermen participate the scientific monitoring during the closed fishing season and receive a compensation for that. 
  5. It is crucial to have a strong legal and institutional framework so that lack of enforcement doesn’t hinder the overall performance of the initiative.


  1. A network of 16 fish refuges that protect more than 18,000 hectares of coral reefs, seagrass meadows and coastal wetlands has been established since 2012.
  2. The first generation of fish refuges (no-take fishing areas) has been renewed for a period of five more years, as an initiative of the fishermen.
  3. Fishermen conduct scientific monitoring, community surveillance, participate in capacity-building workshops and are key stakeholders in the decision-making.
  4. The Kanan Kay Alliance has been active for more than five years as a collaborative network promoting the agreement upon a common agenda, establishing shared measurements, fostering cross-collaboration


The Kanan Kay Alliance is a voluntary member-based initiative that aims to act as the backbone organization to achieve collective impact. It involves around 40 members from the government, fishing cooperatives, civil society organizations, academic researchers and private donors. Work is being done to improve governance whilst strengthening the role of the fishing organizations in this network.


Jorge Urdapilleta

At one General Assembly, Kanan Kay Alliance members discussed which terminology to use when referring to “fish refuges” as opposed to "no-take zones". For some governmental representatives, changing to a different term that was both technically correct and easy to understand made a lot of sense. For the fishermen, however, changing the term would have been synonymous with betraying the overall goal of the Alliance. The discussion reached a point where the fishermen were prepared to exercise their power of veto and leave the assembly if the term were to be changed. In the end, the Alliance decided to keep the term, as it was of great importance to the fishermen. This incident helped increase the fishermen´s confidence in a joint management approach and its successful implementation. The fishermen realized that members were equal partners, all committed to the same mission of developing responsible fisheries.

Contributed by

Inés López , Alianza Kanan Kay

Other contributors

Alianza Kanan Kay
Alianza Kanan Kay