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Working towards sustainability of the artisanal stone crab fishery in Ancud, Chile.

Published: 27 February 2019
Last edited: 28 March 2019
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Our work is based on the premise: “fish less and maintain or increase economic remuneration”. To achieve this, stone crab fishers work to distinguish their product from other crab products worldwide in order to obtain a higher value, which in turn will permit less fishing pressure.


Considering that the growing global market demands products managed in a responsible manner, the fishers focused on two objectives: maintaining a sustainable fishery through co-management practices and proving this through the reliable and recognised certification program of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).


The fishers have been recognised for their vision of the future. They have participated in fisheries sustainability fora and meetings, stating that environmentally-friendly fishing practices are the best way to maintain the fishing business. In this way, they have become precursors of fisheries sustainability at the local level, encouraging these processes in other fishing communities.


South America
Scale of implementation
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Open sea
Biodiversity mainstreaming
Fisheries and aquaculture
Species management
Sustainable livelihoods
Other theme
Unsustainable harvesting incl. Overfishing
Ecological Challenges
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Economic Challenges
Lack of technical capacity
Social Challenges
Poor monitoring and enforcement
Sustainable development goals
SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth
SDG 12 – Responsible consumption and production
SDG 14 – Life below water
Aichi targets
Target 4: Sustainable production and consumption
Target 6: Sustainable management of aquatic living resources


Ancud, Chiloé Province, Chile


Biological challenges: avoid overfishing, prevent poor fishing practices, and improve the production of fishery information including impacts on the ecosystem.


Social challenges: overcome the stigmatization of artisanal fishery activity, improve the fishers association, enhance the level of knowledge of the resource biology, train fishers on sustainable and responsible fishing practices.    


Economic challenges: improve prices, deal with labor instability, and reduce the uncertainty of fishing activities in the future.




This initiative benefits directly 80 fishers and indirectly the large artisanal fishing community of Chile, and the State fishery management bodies.

How do the building blocks interact?

Capacity building has allowed fishers to take concrete actions such as the use of logbooks to move the fishery towards sustainability. This included a review of the fishery against a sustainability standard, which in turn led to the development of a Fishery Improvement Project (FIP) to address identified gaps.


The FIP has scheduled the tasks to address gaps. Different institutions have been engaged in the development of actions over a three-year time period. Clear guidelines have been provided for the design and implementation of a management plan for the fishery, which is being developed within a co-management framework that is recognized by the Chilean fishing sector.


With trained fishermen who have clear guidelines to take the fishery towards sustainability, as well as an instance of public-private co-management, it is expected that sustainability outcomes will be achieved. By obtaining certification for the fishery and positioning the resource in markets that demand sustainable products to increase market opportunities, this should stabilize the income of artisanal fishers.


The implementation of a Fisheries Improvement Project has generated short and medium term work commitments between the State of Chile, NGOs, national universities and artisanal fishermen.


The fishers have carried out a pre-assessment of the sustainability of the fishery to the globally recognised MSC standard. This identified areas for improvement and provided, to the State of Chile and the Chiloé Crustacean Management Committee, a clear path to achieve sustainability including through stock assessments and appropriate capture strategies based on population status.


The efforts of the fishers to maintain the stone crab (Metacarcinus edwardsii) fishery at sustainable levels has also generated effects in the social dimension. There is a strong local recognition of this fishing community, which in turn has motivated them to continue learning and improving their fishing activities. They have implemented fishing logbooks, where new data is collected to provide relevant information for the appropriate management of the fishery.


In the economic dimension, it is expected that once the stone crab fishery is certified as sustainable, this implies a market differentiation, awarding a comparative advantage to the artisanal fishers.



The history of the stone crab fishery is a story of social, economic and environmental improvements.


It started in the 1980s, when extraction was carried out mainly by shore fishing using small boats and traps made of tires or other waste. The fishery was only for self-consumption.


Although growing commercial demand led local fishers to increase production, fishing activity was still precarious. The boats lacked autonomy, sanitary conditions were deficient and the fishers had to make great physical efforts since each trap had to be set and lifted manually. This situation persisted for more than two decades.


In 2002, the fishers formed an association and developed a formal commercial fishery. The organisation began to prosper and obtained state development funds. These, along with their own funds, allowed the fishers to professionalize their activities, incorporating better technologies to improve working conditions and safety on board, along with better storage and sanitary conditions that enabled boats to reach port with a higher quality resource. 


The stone crab is the most important species in the national crab fishery of Chile. Landings are around 3-4,000 tons per year, which is equivalent to more than US$ 2.8 million of first sale transactions. This supports the livelihoods of many artisanal fishers.


The stone crab fishery is now entirely commercial, and the concern of both the fishers and the State is to maintain sustainable levels of fishing.


To do this, the fishery has been evaluated against the MSC Standard, which provides an external and objective measurement of the status of the fishery. A pre-assessment report has now been completed for this fishery which provides a road map to sustainability.


The State has formalised a co-management group, where the public bodies responsible for regulation and inspection of fisheries, the direct users of the fishery, the artisanal fishers and the crab processors are represented.Together, this group will build a management plan and ensure the sustainability of the fishery.


These actions have catalysed the implementation of a Fisheries Improvement Project (FIP), where different agents such as the Undersecretariat of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Universities, NGOs and artisanal fishermen have been involved in order to address the information and management gaps necessary to ensure sustainability in the fishery and to improve the value chain of the resource.

Contributed by

Miguel Espindola Centro de Investigación Ecos

Other contributors

Centro de Investigación Ecos
Comité Productivo de Jaiberos de Ancud
Subsecretaría de Pesca y Acuicultura