Brazilian lobster FIP advances despite political setbacks

Published on
March 15, 2016

Brazilian lobster fishery improvement project (FIP) is continuing to build momentum despite a political situation in the country that has made management difficult.

On 8 March, during Seafood Expo North America, all the major parties to the FIP signed a renewal of the FIP agreement and two new companies from Brazil announced their intention to join the partnership.

The FIP is a partnership between the state of Ceará, Brazil, SINDFRIO, the Brazilian lobster exporters association and CeDePesca, the Center for Development and Sustainable Fisheries, which focuses on South America. It has faced the challenge this year of adapting to the absorption of Brazil’s Ministry of Fisheries into the country’s Agriculture Ministry.

“Despite all troubles, we are still optimistic,” said CeDePesca project manager Rochelle Bezerra.

In 2013, CeDePesca launched the first stock assessment on the spiny lobster fishery in Brazil and it announced at SENA that it will launch its third assessment in April 2016, in conjunction with the upcoming fishing season.

The initial assessment showed that the fishery was overexploited, but ensuing studies have shown fishing mortality has been reduced and the stocks are recovering slightly, according to CeDePesca. The organization attributes its success to an agreement in the U.S. to refuse imports of lobster tails smaller than 13 cm.

“We managed to get advances, our alliance with the exporters is strong, the stock assessment has been a major contribution to the discussion, and step by step the decision makers are accepting the idea of substituting the current, inefficient effort-control based system with a quota-based one.”

The political changes involving the Ministry of Fisheries stalled further progress on the FIP, including moves to set a total allowable catch limit, discontinue the use of gillnets, forbid the off-season sale of lobsters at local markets and adopt a requirement of 100 percent live landings by 2017. CeDePesca has targeted governmental approval of those proposals as the FIP’s top priority in 2016.

“The predominant focus of our activities along 2016 will be the government,” Bezerra said. “We need them establishing and enforcing the measures that were almost adopted last year, and the support from the supply chain will be very important to achieve this goal.”

Ralph Bru, the president of Miami-based seafood distributor Tequesta Bay Seafood, which is a partner and member of the FIP, said there was growing support for the FIP’s work in making the spiny lobster fishery in Brazil more sustainable.

“I think the FIP program is extremely important and is something the industry needs both in the U.S. and Brazil,” Bru said. “It’s important fishery everyone in that fishery is a custodian of it. If we want it to be around for future generations, it’s important we give it the attention it needs to push it forward. It has been and will continue to be tough, but if we all pull together and help achieve all of the FIP goals, it will be worth it.”

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