Mainstreaming the recovery of marine fisheries and ecosystems through collective action and science

Published: 12 November 2015
Last edited: 30 September 2020
remove_red_eye 5436 Views


Mexican marine ecosystems are not exempt from overexploitation. Approximately 17% of the Mexican fisheries are overexploited,  70% are at the maximum sustainable yield, and only 13% are underexploited. With 41% of the Mexican population living in coastal municipalities and 11,000 coastal communities with less than 15,000 habitants mainly relying on the marine resources and ecosystems, sustainable fisheries are crucial to ensuring employment, income, and food security for many people.  


COBI has developed four building blocks to reverse the degradation of the marine environment: 1) capacity building of leaders and fishing organizations, 2) sustainable fishing, 3) marine reserves, and 4) support to public policies. For each, COBI develops demonstrative models that can be adopted by fishing organizations and other stakeholders in Mexico and elsewhere.


The transversal elements of our work are collective action, citizen science, and gender equality. 



North America
Scale of implementation
Coral reef
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Rocky reef / Rocky shore
Biodiversity mainstreaming
Fisheries and aquaculture
Gender mainstreaming
Legal & policy frameworks
Local actors
Science and research
Ecosystem loss
Unsustainable harvesting incl. Overfishing
Lack of technical capacity
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Sustainable development goals
SDG 2 – Zero hunger
SDG 5 – Gender equality
SDG 14 – Life below water
SDG 17 – Partnerships for the goals
Aichi targets
Target 6: Sustainable management of aquatic living resources
Target 10: Ecosystems vulnerable to climate change
Target 11: Protected and conserved areas
Target 19: Sharing information and knowledge
Other targets
FAO Voluntary guidelines to secure small-scale fisheries in the context of food security and poverty eradication
(I)NDC Submission


Mexico | Bahía de Kino, Guaymas y Puerto Libertad, Sonora; El Rosario, La Bocana e Isla Natividad, Baja California; Banco Chinchorro, Sian Kaan y Yumbalam, Quintana Roo.


1. Weak organizations due to fishing organizations with low levels of internal cooperation and high levels of distrust; a lack of leaders focusing on the common good; and insufficient participation of fishers in rule making, enforcement and compliance.

2. Unsustainable fishing practices due to low incentives to promote sustainable fishing; low resource availability; and lack of general standards to define sustainable fishing practices.

3. Insufficient ecosystem restauration practices due to lack of information about ecosystem health; poor organization for alternative activities; low investment capacity of cooperatives and seasonally variable incomes from fishing.

4. A deficient regulatory framework that does not defined criteria for sustainable fishing, does not incentivize the restoration of fisheries and marine ecosystems, nor provide guidelines for effective participation.


All stakeholders involved in the fishing sector, from artisanal and industrial fishermen to government, markets, consumers.

How do the building blocks interact?

The building blocks on sustainable fisheries and marine reserves represent the core of our work. However, we have learned through experience that these building blocks cannot be implemented if fishing organizations are weak. The building block on capacity building for fishing leaders and organizations allows to identify the strengths and areas of improvements (at the social and governance systems levels) before implementing sustainable fisheries and marine reserves. Furthermore, in order to have greater impacts, we cannot avoid to use our lessons learned to inform and improve policies at the national level.


COBI and community partners have:

  • Strengthened the skills of 38 leaders, 26 cooperatives, four fishery committees and one regional alliance to invest in marine conservation and sustainable fisheries.
  • Made visible the contribution of women to the fishing sector.
  • Identified biophysical, socioeconomic, and governance principles for the design of marine reserves in three priority ecosystems: Baja California kelp forest, Gulf of California rocky reefs, Mesoamerican coral reefs.
  • Contributed to the design, implementation, and evaluation of 790m2 of marine reserves (no-take areas).
  • Trained more 200 community divers (15% women, 85% men) to do the monitoring of 350 marine species and environmental changes in poor information sites.
  • Implemented best practices in 11 fisheries (chocolate clams, white clams, red clams, red rock lobster, ocean tilefish, penshell, Pacific sardine, thread herring, spiny lobster, swimming crab, yellowtail).
  • Contributed to 50% of the Aichi Targets, 90% of the SDG14 targets, 100% of the FAO voluntary guidelines for securing small-scale fisheries in the context of food security and poverty eradication.
  • Published the results, lessons learned, and know-how of demonstrative models in more 100 peer-reviewed articles and technical reports.
  • Shared demonstrative models and lessons learned with other 11 countries.



The 250 fishermen of Puerto Libertad, an isolated village located on the north coast of the Gulf of California, have traditionally fished important species such as grouper, snapper, sharks and bivalves to sustain their livelihoods. Before COBI's intervention, there was no regulatory framework in place nor a robust governance system to sustainably manage fishing activities. This led to the unfettered extraction of marine resources and severe conflicts between licensed fishing organizations and unlicensed fishermen as well as between industrial and small-scale fisheries. After one year of working with local independent fishers, cooperatives, and individual permit holders (buyers) on an ecosystem-based management project, these actors decided to self-organize and become the leaders of their community's future. They created a local committee for fisheries and aquaculture, through which they have implemented a sophisticated management scheme, which includes the regularization of traditional fishers and fisheries, fisheries data collection, IUU decrease, ecosystem restoration through no-take zones, ITQs, and better commercialization of their seafood products. Through the concerted effort of all stakeholders, there has been significant progress in meeting a collective goal, the sustainable use of common marine goods.


Contributed by

Maria Jose Espinosa-Romero Comunidad y Biodiversidad, A. C.

Other contributors

Comunidad y Biodiversidad
Comunidad y Biodiversidad