Category Archives: Mexico

Maximizing Limited Data to Improve Fishery Management

By Ashley Apel

According to a recent study published in Science, nearly 80% of the world’s catch comes from “data-limited” fisheries.  Not surprisingly, research shows that many of these fisheries are facing collapse, jeopardizing the food security of hundreds of millions of people in developing countries who depend on seafood for a majority of their dietary protein.

Historically, fisheries with little data had few science-based management options. But new methods are being continuously developed and used in the field that deliver science-based results, even in the absence of long-term, historical catch data. Since fishery stock assessments can be extremely complex, EDF recently developed a user-friendly, six-step framework as part of an overall guide to Science-Based Management of Data-Limited Fisheries.

The framework outlines a systematic approach that fishery managers can use to conduct quick and relatively inexpensive assessments.  The methods allow stakeholders in data-limited fisheries to estimate risks to marine ecosystems, determine vulnerability of a stock to fishing pressure, calculate the level of overfishing, assess the sustainability of the fishery, and establish sustainable fishing targets and other management reference points.  

Download the guide on Science-Based Management of Data-Limited Fisheries or download the entire toolkit for fisheries.  Feel free to send questions or comments to catchsharequestions@edf.org.

Also posted in Alaska, Catch Shares, Cuba, EDF Oceans General, Global Fisheries, Latin America & Caribbean, Mid-Atlantic, New England, Pacific, Science/Research, South Atlantic| Comments closed

Mexican fisheries delegation visits West Coast; EDF-sponsored fact-finding trip illustrates benefits of collaboration in fishery management

Photos courtesy of SEPESCA – Baja California

Last week I had the pleasure of accompanying senior fisheries officials from four Mexican states to Southern California, where they met with fishermen, seafood processors and members of the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC).  As they establish and reinforce their own fishery management systems and structures, this trip was a chance for Mexican officials to see firsthand a well-established system that has evolved for decades – and generally succeeds – through broad-based stakeholder participation and a commitment to transparency.

In 2007 the four states with Gulf of California coastlines – Sonora, Sinaloa, Baja California and Baja California Sur – were mandated by the new Mexican Fisheries Law to establish fishery management structures. Some are further along than others, but each face daunting challenges; Limited manpower and finances, little governing infrastructure and minimal baseline scientific data that are so critical to fishery management.

Although I don’t presume to speak for the individual fishery leaders, I think it’s safe to say that this trip was a success. Based on our conversations, here are some of the concepts that made the strongest impressions on them during the visit:

  • There are real benefits in having state fishery officials working with other states through a regional body, and sharing equally not only in the responsibilities of fishery management, but in the “best available science” that informs “best possible decision-making.”
  • There is real power in the council process. The decisions they reach have deep and serious implications, and it is clear from our conversations that this level of influence in the public policy process weighs heavily on council members as they deliberate and dialogue.
  • There is great respect for the views of fishermen (in the PFMC process), but there are also time-proven filters – the Council advisory committees that EDF staffers participate in. These advisory bodies air out and “stress-test” the concerns, opinions and recommendations of industry leaders and NGOs before they are presented to the Council. In a process that often involves week-long Council meetings, this filtering and testing is essential to the Council’s effectiveness.
  • The federal government plays a critical role in Council processes, but they participate as mutually respectful equals with the states, and a very healthy give-and-take is evident during Council meetings.

Not every policy and tactic in the Pacific are applicable to Mexico, but the fishery officials certainly benefited from a wealth of “lessons-learned” by West Coast fishery managers, and as we all know, lessons learned by someone else are often the best kind!

The Gulf of California states comprise a geographically and economically distinct region with fantastic marine resources. Developing management systems to support those resources and coastal economies will take a long time, but my staff and I look forward to helping in every way we can.

Delegation members Carlos Aceves and Daniel Vargas (Baja California State); Jose Fernando Garcia and Armando Herrero (Baja California Sur); Cuauhtemoc Castro and Cesar Julio Saucedo (Sinaloa State) ; Javier Vivian and Raúl Molina (Sonora State); and Anayeli Cabrera and Eduardo Rolon (Community & Biodiversity, Mexico City).

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EDF's Fishing Game Highlighted on RARE Blog

Originally posted in Rare Dispatches, Author: J.M. McCord

Fishers in Loreto, Mexico, play Go Fish! with different-colored candy representing juvenile and adult fish

Ulises Mendez, Rare program manager in Mexico, waited for the cackles to subside before asking the fishers what they had learned. The fishers had just completed a candy-grabbing game designed to expose the benefits of good fishery management.

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) first exposed Mendez to the game during a workshop a couple years ago. Many versions of the game exist involving a variety of props and customizations. The essential elements are:

1 A proxy for the ocean — “In our regional training we did the fishing game in a pool,” says Sarilani Wirawan, Rare senior program manager in Indonesia. “The more water, the more fun.” Typically, a table will do.

2 Fish stand-ins — any material available will suffice, ranging from rocks, peanuts and shells to goldfish cut-outs or action figures, but the most popular option is candy. Mendez used multi-colored candy to represent different types of fish such as juveniles and adults.

3 Some versions also include props for different fishing gear or plates for no-fishing areas. The specifics can be tweaked for relevance to a region’s laws and threats.

“Participants always learn new insights into sustainable fisheries management, fisheries economics or the fishing industry in general.” -Ashley Apel of EDF. 

In Loreto, Mexico, Mendez had fishers use spoons and tongs for nets and hook-and-line fishing because those are their primary fishing methods. Many of Rare’s projects on sustainable fishing, including those managed by Mendez, use the game to highlight how working together and different management tools increase long-term benefits for fishers.

Mendez took the Loreto fishers through three rounds of the game:

Round 1 Anarchy — in a fixed amount of time, say 60 seconds, fishers had open access to candy (fish) on the table (ocean). They emptied the ocean very quickly.

Round 2 One Management tool — for example, the fishers could only take adult fish and were fined, in candy payments, for taking juveniles.

Round 3 Rights and reserves — the rules are adapted for additional management layers such as user rights and no-fishing zones. Essentially, Mendez tweaked the rules so fishers created a candy-land territorial user right for fisheries with a no-fishing zone (TURF-reserve).

The game got a huge laugh out of the salt-stained and sun-weathered men. Even though they are savvy fishers and know the consequences of overfishing, they could not believe they hoarded all the candy. “Participants always learn new insights into sustainable fisheries management, fisheries economics or the fishing industry in general,” says Ashley Apel of EDF.

Mendez discovered that fishers who play the game conclude they should play a role in enforcement. Fishers do not need to depend on authorities, rather they can apply sanctions internally against their fishing cooperative members who do not follow the rules of “Go Fish!”

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EDF presents analysis of illegal fishing to the Mexican Senate

EDF was recently invited by the Fisheries Committee of the Mexican Senate to present a study on Illegal fishing in Mexico that we have developed with the Mexican Institute of Competitiveness (IMCO) and other partners. Three of the five Senators who make up the Committee were present: the Chair – Sen. Francisco Lopez Brito (PAN, Sinaloa), the Secretary – Sen. Oscar Rosas González (PRI, Campeche), and Sen. Ernesto Ruffo (PAN, BC). Also in attendance was the General Director and several staff from National Fisheries Institute of Mexico (INAPESCA), as well as representatives from fishermen´s associations from both the industrial and small-scale fleets.

This is the first time EDF attended one of the monthly public meetings of the Committee. Pedro Zapata (EDF de Mexico Director) and Rodrigo Gallegos (Director for Global Warming from IMCO) made remarks and presented key conclusions from this study, which we hope will open up a constructive dialogue on this critical and complex issue. A few of the main points presented follow:

  1. The Mexican fishing sector has consistently lost competitiveness over time, as reflected by its stagnant economic returns and catch volumes, even as the size of the fleet continues to increase (mostly in the small-scale sector). The fisheries sector has decreased consistently as a percentage of GDP, of which it now represents less that 0.06%.
  2. Part of the reason for this loss of competitiveness is the modest economic impact of fisheries in Mexico, which result in very little activity in the value chain, i.e. gear and equipment sales, processing, transport, etc… Mexican fisheries generate roughly 30 additional cents for every dollar of fish caught and sold back into the economy, far from the world´s average, which is closer to 3 dollars of additional economic activity.
  3. One of the reasons for this complex problem is the high level of illegal fishing, which, by our estimates, represents roughly 60% of total production in México. Other recent estimates place the number closer to 100%.
  4. Illegal fishing is driven by many factors, but one of the main causes is a highly complicated and obscure regulatory framework that is difficult to understand. There are so many laws and rules that fishermen often find themselves fishing illegally without realizing it. As the law stands now, there are more than 255 different ways to fish illegally. A fisherman can have the right gear, fish in the right season, for the right species, but in an area that is legally off-limits, or he can be in the right area at the right time of year but fail to land the fish in the right place. This over-regulation complicates the jobs of both fishermen and regulators.
  5. Predictably, corruption (mostly in the form of bribes to get permits or to avoid punishment) plays an important role and has fueled the increase of illegal fishing. This phenomenon, present in many areas of public policy in Mexico, is boosted by a combination of a complex institutional framework, overwhelmed authorities and very ineffective control measures. Read More »

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Revitalizing the Mexican Corvina Fishery with Sustainable Management

Corvina Fishing Boat

Mexican fishermen with a catch of Corvina. Photo Credit: Silvia Yee

For many years the short, six week commercial Corvina fishing season in the Upper Gulf of California was marked by a frenzied race to fish, with as many as 600 boats in the water at the same time. Beginning in late February, and aligned with moon cycles, this species gathers in the Colorado River delta to spawn, a yearly ritual eagerly awaited by the local fishermen. And so every year, with so much fish to be had, and so many fishermen, thousands of tons would hit the market simultaneously. This drove the price down and resulted in even more fishing effort, which would even further depress prices – to values below that of a recycled plastic bottle. It was a vicious cycle that has become all too familiar in fisheries in Latin America and around the world. Scientists have long advised that, if unchecked, this way of fishing could lead to the complete collapse of Corvina, having dire consequences for a region with very limited economic alternatives. It is estimated that Corvina represents as much as 60% of all fish sold in Mexico City during this time of year, coinciding with Lent, when seafood consumption is highest. 

Three years ago EDF, fishermen, and critical partners like Noroeste Sustentable (NOS), the Academy for Systemic Change, and the state and federal governments, set out to bring catch share management to this fishery to give fishermen and others a stake in its biological and economic success. In 2012 a new system was put into place: a scientifically-based Total Allowable Catch (a limit on the amount of fish that can be caught) was published ahead of the season, and the first-ever co-management agreements were brokered in the largest fishing community – Golfo de Santa Clara, which represents roughly 80% of the total catch – that included a price agreement and a per-tide, per-skiff allocation. Central to the good preliminary results of this new system was the agreement reached with leading stakeholders in the region, including Guillermina García and other important local seafood buyers. Ms. García and her peers agreed to a price floor in exchange for the fishermen’s promise to stick to their allocation and not flood the market, allowing the buyers to time their supply to the market in Mexico City. The agreements worked and the price floor held for most of the season. Our initial analysis suggests that fishermen made more money while catching approximately 50% fewer fish over the same period of time.

Dinora Gallardo, a local businesswoman, explained the end result best:

This system is worth it, and we are spending less. Before, we were paid 4-6, maybe 8 pesos per kilo. Now we are catching less, but if you make the calculations with the limited catch, and the higher price, we are actually making more, especially because we are out fishing less.Read More »

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Another Good Summer for Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtles

Kemp's Ridley tracks on a beach in Mexico

Tracks from Kemp's ridley sea turtles can be seen on a stretch of beach near Rancho Nuevo, Mexico earlier this year. Photo courtesy of LightHawk.

Kemp’s ridley sea turtle nesting season is winding down for the summer, and I'm happy to report that nest numbers are still on the rise!  While the Kemp's ridleys still are the world's most critically endangered sea turtle, they are making a huge come back in recent years.

Until half a century ago, tens of thousands of Kemp’s ridleys would surge onto Mexico’s Gulf of Mexico beaches in a few large nesting events each year to lay their eggs. At the turn of the 20th century, turtle meat and eggs became popular delicacies, causing the turtle’s population to crash.  Later, accidental catches in fishing gear kept their population from recovering.

Today, Kemp's ridleys are rebounding due to protections that government, fishing industry, EDF and other conservation groups helped win.  These unprecedented actions included protecting Mexico beaches where the turtles nest, monitoring hatchlings at an incubation site, and establishing the headstart program and a second nesting site in Texas.  The initial recovery program spanned from 1978-1988.  During this time, over 22,000 eggs were transported from Playa de Rancho Nuevo in Mexico to Padre Island National Seashore in Texas.  Once hatched, the turtles were exposed to the Padre Island sand and surf, and then captured and transported to the National Marine Fisheries Service Laboratory in Galveston, Texas, where they were reared in captivity for 9-11 months. This “head-start” program allowed the turtles to grow large enough to be tagged for future recognition and to avoid most natural predators.    It was hoped that this exposure would imprint the turtles to the National Seashore so they would return year after year to nest at adulthood. Read More »

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Fishermen Embrace Change in the Sinaloa, Mexico Shrimp Fishery: Part III

Community-based enforcement: a positive and unexpected result of catch shares in Sinaloa.

As we mentioned in the previous two posts of this blog series the coastal shrimp fishery in Sinaloa, Mexico has been managed under a catch share program for two years now. Over 10,000 legal fishermen work in the fishery from Sinaloa, a coastal state in the northwestern part of Mexico.

One of the biggest challenges we have faced in working with the coastal shrimp fishery is the vast amount of illegal fishing activities. Nonetheless, through great efforts by the Mexican federal government, fishermen and NGOs, we have achieved great milestones in this project including the first science-based estimation of a total allowable catch for shrimp by Inapesca (the Mexican Fisheries and Aquaculture Research Institute), the allocation of catch shares to 140 cooperatives, and the unprecedented financial support of the Mexican government to hire a third-party firm to monitor landings.

Figure 1: Location of the two lagoon systems under a community-based surveillance and enforcement system.

Figure 1: Location of the two lagoon systems under a community-based surveillance and enforcement system.

Still, there is plenty of road to travel in this process of implementation to get the system to function properly and produce the biological, economic and social benefits possible with catch shares. Surveillance and enforcement have become an important issue. There are not enough government inspectors to ensure compliance with rules and regulations, so our team has worked with fishing communities to design and assist in setting up a community-based monitoring and enforcement system.

At the beginning of this year, we helped organize cooperative meetings in two of the largest lagoon systems in Sinaloa: Altata-Ensenada Pabellones and Santa María-La Reforma (see Figure 1). The overarching goal of these meetings was to get community members together so they could come up with a system that included: codes of conduct that promote sustainable fishing practices, designate community inspectors (which would ensure compliance with these codes) and a “Surveillance and Enforcement Committee” in each lagoon system.

The community-based enforcement initiative works like this: the agreed upon codes of conduct are communicated to all participants via coop leaders, large signs, and portable plastic cards that fishermen are to carry on board their skiff. If any member of the community identifies somebody breaking any of the rules stipulated in the codes of conduct, that person has two options, either to call a 1-800 government phone number and place an anonymous report, or to call a community inspector who will place the report for them. These numbers are printed on the signs and the plastic cards. When the report is done by the community inspector, the Surveillance and Enforcement Committee has the obligation of reporting the government and follow up.

Figure 2: How the system works from bottom-up to top-down.

Figure 2: How the system works from bottom-up to top-down.

Conapesca, the Mexican Fisheries Management Authority, has approved and supported this co-management scheme by providing a substantial amount of financial resources to implement it and is considering how it could be facilitated in other fisheries in Mexico.

The potential benefits of this system are considerable given the astounding number of fishermen involved in this fishery.  We will begin evaluation as soon as preliminary results are available to measure the success of this initiative. One of the most important lessons we have learned is that with a fishing community this large, it is best if the users themselves lay out the rules so they have an incentive to comply with them.

Sometimes, our most important job is to simply create the conditions for success, and the rest will fall into place.

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Fishermen Embrace Change in the Sinaloa, Mexico Shrimp Fishery: Part II

The fisherman’s story of frustration with compliance issues under the Sinaloa Shrimp fishery catch share was what I and two of my colleagues continuously heard during our outreach trip in Mexico in July.  After spending a month in fishing camps along the Sinaloa coast giving presentations on catch shares and facilitating other exercises to communicate and dissect the issues of fishery management, we believe the fishermen we reached now understand that achieving success through catch share management will take efforts from all the stakeholders: NGOs, government, and most importantly the fishermen themselves. 

Although it is easy to become frustrated with the challenges of implementing a new fishery management program, we stressed that real lasting change will take time and that our workshops aimed to empower fishermen to begin solving their own problems with compliance. 
 
One thing that has always interested us is what type of management fishermen would implement if they could choose.  To find this out, we played a “fishing game” with three rounds that mimic the problems in the fishery for both the fishermen and the authorities, while inviting fishermen to solve these issues using their own knowledge.

The first round represents the race to fish; the second round a command and control management, and in the third round the fishermen themselves are allowed to make up their own rules.  In many cases the third round resulted in some form of catch shares.  In response, we communicated that although the realities fishermen face are bleak, without their participation and compliance we will never see the third round in reality.

Implementing catch shares in Mexico has many challenges, and illegal fishing is one main roadblock.  In 2009, a historic year for fisheries in Mexico, a TAC was set and shares were allocated for the artisanal blue shrimp fishery.  NGOs and government were working together to improve fishery management, something rare in any country.  

Though in a land where the laws are written well but commonly disobeyed, it has become clear that with catch shares the story is no different.  For this reason it has been of utmost importance for us to maintain contact with the fishermen and continue our presence on the ground.  Adaptive management and design continues to be our motto as we work with fishermen to implement innovative solutions and design to confront these challenges.

During our trip, I was a proud catch share cheerleader, and for this shrimp season in Sinaloa we have restored the faith in many fishermen that catch shares equals change.   Now we must continue to work with fishermen to help design solutions that will turn theory into practice and implement innovative enforcement programs, which will reward those who are part of a catch share and gather their support as advocates and better stewards of their resource.

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