Mexican shrimp fishery nabs new Fair Trade certification

Published on
February 23, 2016

A Mexican shrimp fishery partaking in a long-term fishery improvement project (FIP) recently became eligible under the Fair Trade USA (FTUSA)’s capture fisheries standard, a certification designation that is a first for Mexico and a first for shrimp fisheries worldwide.

With the help of Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP), in tandem with Fair Trade USA, Del Pacifico Seafoods and its exclusive supplier MHMR International were able to obtain the aforementioned certificate. Eight small-scale cooperatives of artisanal shrimp producers in Sinaloa, Mexico are currently participating in the FIP alongside Del Pacifico Seafoods and MHMR International.

The certificate means that the producers involved were able to demonstrate the fulfillment of specific criteria promoting worker empowerment, local economic development, social responsibility and environmental stewardship. After embarking on the certification journey in September 2015, the Sinaloa fishery officially earned its certificate in January 2016 after completing the rigorous audit process.

The fishery is the first for wild shrimp in the world – and in Mexico – to be certified under the Fair Trade seafood parameters. Getting its start in certification in 2014, FTUSA has mostly worked with yellowfin tuna producers in Indonesia.

“SFP helped industry prepare for this important milestone, but Del Pacifico and MHMR showed true leadership in supporting the fishermen to make the improvements and plans necessary for Fair Trade certification,” said Juan Manuel Caudillo, SFP’s deputy fisheries director. “We hope this serves as a model that spreads to other shrimp fisheries in the world and other fisheries in Mexico.”

“In partnership with SFP, we are excited to celebrate the first Fair Trade Certified seafood in Mexico,” added Ashley Apel, the seafood program manager at FTUSA. “By purchasing seafood that is both socially ethical and responsibly harvested, consumers can have a direct, positive impact on fishing communities in Sinaloa.”

Annual landings for the artisanal Sinaloa shrimp fishery run to about 2 million pounds, and are valued at USD 14 million (EUR 12.7 million). SFP has been helping the fishery by way of an improvement project since 2009 and through its collaboration with Del Pacifico. The fishery uses small boats called pangas – which measure to about 25 feet – that burn less fuel and produce less bycatch than the traditional trawler; hand nets and 80-foot modified cast nets are also used by the fishery’s occupants.

Sergio Castro, President and founder of Del Pacifico, said his company sought the certification as a way to celebrate the incredible work of the fishermen, reported SFP. “We noticed other processors and shrimp importers were not informing consumers and the industry of the good job these fishermen are doing: developing a unique technique and gear that is good for the environment."

Shrimp in the northwest Pacific coast of Mexico, including the Gulf of California, is a high-ranking export for the region. Landing values for shrimp in the area average to nearly USD 260 million (EUR 235.9 million). The species and its fishery rank at the top with respect to the number of vessels (750 bottom trawlers and about 18,000 small-scale vessels) and number of direct jobs (37,000 direct jobs and 75,000 indirect ones). Volume for annual landings comes in at 40,000 tons during a season spanning from September to March.

SCS Global Services conducted the audit. Over the course of six years, the Fair Trade program requirements will amp up for the Sinaloa fishery, with specific criteria accumulating in areas such as the protection of fundamental human rights, wages and contracts, working conditions, access to services, responsible fishing methods and product traceability.

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