Mexico’s Guaymas fishery improvement project receives “A” grade in progress update
A fishery improvement project in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez has received an “A” grade from Fishery Progress in its efforts to better its sustainability credentials.
The fishery is composed of 100 fishermen in 30 boats using handlines to target fish in season, which this summer included yellowtail, red snapper, and leopard grouper. In other parts of the year, they also catch goldspotted sand bass, ocean whitefish, rooster hind, and gulf grouper.
La Sociedad Cooperativa de Producción Pesquera 29 de Agosto SCL is the fishermen’s co-op that founded the FIP in 2017, with oversight from the non-profit organization Comunidad y Biodiversidad, A.C.
“This is a group of fishermen who have committed to changing their fishing methods, now exclusively using hand-lines, in order to preserve their biodiversity, fish stocks, and their community,” according to Polly Legendre, the head of business development for Buena Vista Seafood, which is the co-ops distribution partner in the United States. “They all take turns fishing to fulfill orders for the market, so it is fair and equitable for all the members during these trying times. Given the challenges of fishing in the Sea of Cortez, from declining biodiversity to problems around vaquita and totoaba bycatch, these fishermen are tackling their present and their future by working together.”
San Francisco, California, U.S.A.-based Buena Vista Seafood began working with the co-op earlier this summer, according to Legendre. She said the co-op’s catch depends on seasonality, weather, and catch rates. The fishermen fish at night out of small “panga” boats powered by four-stroke engines. Once on board, the fish is bled immediately and stowed in on-board ice holds. Once it’s landed, it is sealed and placed on ice in plastic totes. The co-op keeps records of catch, crew, and effort, aiding in tracability efforts, and if bycatch ends up on a line, it is set free, Legendre said.
The FIP catches an estimated 30 metric tons of fish per year, according to Fishery Progress.
“A few months ago, an old contact of ours reached out to Buena Vista Seafood to see if there might be interest in becoming the U.S. partner with a fishermen’s co-op group fishing in the Sea of Cortez,” she said. “When we heard about the commitment these fishermen were making, we were very interested and wanted to become their champions in the U.S. Besides being a robust co-op, they are part of a formal FIP, which meant for us that we needed to help out by opening a market in the U.S.”
The FIP recently received an upgraded report from Fishery Progress, which tracks and grades FIPs, stating it was addressing all 28 of its indicators, including advancing it from a “C” grade to an “A.” All FIPs with an “A” ranking are automatically given a “good alternative,” or “yellow” rating on the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch list.
The FIP’s objectives include better logging and monitoring of fishing effort, achieving a determination of species stock status, assessing the impact of the fishery on the ecosystem, promoting the development of regulations of a harvest strategy, and ensuring compliance through monitoring.
“We hope to keep supporting these fishermen through these difficult times and look forward to their continued progress in achieving their FIP goals,” Legendre said.
Photo courtesy of Buena Vista Seafood