Monthly Archives: December 2010

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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Catch Share Conversations: The Atlantic Red Crab Fishery

Red crabs in crates

Red crab.

My last post on EDFish described a day I spent in the tidal creeks of South Carolina fishing for blue crabs with local waterman Fred Dockery.  Today, I’d like to share some valuable insights gleaned from a very different crab fishery.

The deep-sea Atlantic red crab fishery had long escaped the attention of many stakeholders in New England owing to its comparatively small fleet and modest landings relative to larger scale cousins like the sea scallop, groundfish and lobster fisheries. Indeed, the fishery did not even have a management plan until 2002. However, last fall, red crab assumed an unexpected level of attention in response to advice on acceptable biological catch (ABC) from the New England Fishery Management Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC, on which I sit) that many deemed to be too low and likely to impose excessive socio-economic hardships. 

Fortunately, the months since the September 2009 Council meeting where the SSC first delivered its red crab ABC saw scientists, managers and the industry take the steps needed to generate better catch advice. Efforts made to generate better catch advice were consistent with sound scientific and fishery management process, thus turning a tense controversy into a valuable example of how to do things better. 

Industry and SSC members worked directly with the red crab Plan Development Team to expand and clarify the science underpinning the ABC.  Also, fellow committee member Dr. Dan Georgianna and I visited the red crab unloading and processing facility in New Bedford just before the March 2010 SSC meeting at which we revisited the red crab ABC.  Our visit aimed to help us learn more about the fishery and its operations to better inform our advice to the Council on both immediate issues and others that might arise down the track, and to help the industry better understand SSC operations and rationale.  The result of those scientific and outreach efforts was an improved analysis and better understanding that gave the SSC more confidence in setting a higher catch limit for 2010 and beyond.

Beyond its constructive participation in the management process, the red crab fishery illustrates the value of cooperative research and innovative business planning in building a more robust and sustainable business model, one that could be enhanced by conversion to catch shares.  We discuss the red crab fishery and its future potential in more detail in the newest edition of CSC – Red Crab Dec 2010 from the EDF Catch Share Design Center.

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