Reduce Overfishing and Improve Livelihoods of Artisanal Fishers - SmartFish

Fisherman with a catch (© SmartFish)
Published: 19 August 2015
Last edited: 03 August 2017
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Summary

 The SmartFish Group, a social enterprise, directly incentivizes Mexican artisanal fishing cooperatives to improve their environmental and social performance. SmartFish NGO incubates worthy co-ops to market readiness with responsible seafood, empowering fishers to catch and produce high quality, responsibly caught seafood to overcome the vicious cycle of overfishing. SmartFish Inc. acts as a "good intermediary," placing their triple impact seafood into prefential markets with transparency and traceability, rewarding them for their responsible practices.

Classifications

Region
North America
Scale of implementation
Local
Subnational
Ecosystem
Beach
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Open sea
Rocky reef / Rocky shore
Other ecosystem
Coastal seas
Theme
Ecosystem services
Food security
Species management
Sustainable fisheries and aquaculture
Sustainable livelihoods
Sustainable development goals
SDG 12 – Responsible consumption and production
SDG 14 – Life below water
Aichi targets
Target 3: Incentives reformed
Target 4: Sustainable production and consumption
Target 6: Sustainable management of aquatic living resources

Location

Coastal Mexico | Baja California, Baja California Sur, Quintana Roo

Challenges

SmartFish is bridging the gap between artisanal fishers who are committed to sustainable fishing practices and social justice, and consumers seeking healthy, sustainably caught seafood. To help fishermen and their families overcome the vicious cycle of overfishing, SmartFish incubates strong, artisanal fishing co-ops to improve their fishing, handling, processing and business practices to rescue the value of their catch and produce premium quality seafood that is independently verifiable as socially and environmentally responsible or improving. SmartFish’s Value Rescue intervention treats artisanal fishing as a complex system, taking into account factors from social dynamics in remote fishing communities to consumer preferences and trends. This integrated approach ensures that access to preferential markets is tied to sustainable fishing practices and that increased income does not increase overfishing.

Beneficiaries

Artisanal fishers and their families and communities as well as Mexican seafood consumers

How do the building blocks interact?

80 percent of the Mexico’s fisheries have been pushed to or beyond their biological limits and are in need of strict management plans to restore them. In response to this growing threat, Smartfish integrates diverse stakeholders to share social intelligence on the value of sustainable fishing. For this to be effective, Smartfish knows that it has to work with the right people. That is why we establish relationships with and between reputable co-ops, NGOs, fisheries and fisherman who promote sustainable fishing practices. To cultivate a market for this sustainable seafood, Smartfish connects responsible fisherman who supply the best quality seafood with the restaurants who demand it. To support and protect the efforts of sustainable fisherman, we work to design and implement proper fishery management to conserve ecosystems, but also sustain livelihoods and ensure food security. To ensure no value is lost in sustainable artisanal fishing Smartfish uses these building blocks to bring the right people together to design and implement effective and responsible fishing practices.

Impacts

Overfishing jeopardizes the wellbeing of artisanal

fishers and ecosystems worldwide. In Mexico, artisanal fishers lose out, adding 80% less value to their catch than the global average. The SmartFish Group takes the novel step of directly incentivizing fishermen to fish more sustainably, yielding impacts including the following:

 

• >30% increases in ex-vessel prices for fishers;

• new employment for women and other family members processing their catch on site;

• Elimination of wildlife bycatch including sea turtles;

• Shift of fishing effort to more resilient target fish populations and sizes;

• Unprecedented supply of responsible seafood in México.

 

Our triple bottom line: fishers can earn more catching less, avoiding overfishing and bycatch; their relatives (majority women) earn new wages processing their catch; and SmartFish makes a margin to scale this success.

Story

S. Hoyt Peckham: In 2009, we began experimenting with entrepreneurial approaches to incentivizing higher sustainability fishing here in NW Mexico. This opportunity arose from years of partnering with fishermen to increase the selectivity and reduce the megafauna bycatch of small-scale fisheries here. Among other results, certain visionary fishermen wanted to try switching back to hook & line and other gear more selective than gillnets, as long as they could find away to do so more profitably. We realized that we could probably align fishing with sustainability objectives and thus overcome the cycle of overfishing. In 2010 we used philanthropic funds to conduct a market study and plan with fisher leaders and in partnership with five fishing cooperatives of the Bahia Magdalena region form the social venture Productos Marinos Sustentables (ProMar) to pilot how we could rescue the value lost in some of their undervalued, reverse alchemy fisheries. Strong demand for ProMar’s zero bycatch, higher sustainability seafood enabled ProMar to generate impressive social, environmental, and economic outcomes. However, that same demand also presented ProMar’s greatest challenge: maintaining catch rates high and consistent enough to meet that demand and retain clients despite seasonal variability and the ProMar members’ opportunistic practices of switching between fisheries. We launched SmartFish AC in 2013 to formulate a business approach to incentivize higher sustainability artisanal fishing by empowering fishermen to rescue value in their undervalued fisheries. To make their sustainable fishing practices more profitable, we have begun building preferential markets for their fish, creating both supply and demand.

Contributed by

Ben Scheelk The Ocean Foundation

Contributors

The Ocean Foundation
The SmartFish Group
The Ocean Foundation