Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.A.-based seafood company Norpac Fisheries Export has signed a commitment in partnership with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) vowing not to buy immature snapper and grouper from Indonesia, the world’s largest supplier of both species.
The agreement aims to protect the Indo-Pacific snapper and grouper fishery, which has grown increasingly more vulnerable to overfishing, according to Norpac and TNC. Recent government assessments found that the fishery – which is fished by an estimated 8,600 vessels, including motorized canoes and large ships – shows signs over-exploitation, TNC said.
Preservation of the fishery, which turns in about 78,000 metric tons of catch annually with an estimated retail value of USD 500 million (EUR 439 million), has become a priority for Norpac and TNC. The agreement, signed by both parties on 14 January, will see Norpac buy and trade only fish larger than the average size of first maturity and share its data on purchased catch, including origin, species, and size.
“We understand that fish caught before they have the ability to spawn cannot contribute to the natural growth of the population. But too often, only fishers are asked to make sacrifices by adopting more sustainable fishing practices, which increases their workload and negatively impacts their livelihoods. It is important that the industry as a whole commit to responsible fishing and mitigate the burden on fishers,” Norpac founder Thomas Kraft said. “Our goal is for this effort to be a model for similar fisheries in the region, and around the world, that guides them as they develop similar programs in support of their fisheries moving to sustainability. We want to motivate fishers to work cooperatively with industry with a long-term vision for the fishery, and we hope to educate the public to support efforts that bring high-quality seafood to market in a responsible manner."
Snapper and grouper are prized species in the global seafood trade, valued at USD 130 billion (EUR 114 billion). The species are often purchased by buyers in premium, consumer-ready formats, such as pan-sized whole fillets, “which often originate from fish that haven’t reached full maturity,” TNC said in a press release. If more seafood exporters and buyers sign onto the minimum trading size commitment, the deepwater fishery can avoid collapse, according to TNC and Norpac.
TNC has been involved in improvement efforts surrounding Indonesia’s snapper/grouper fishery since 2014, as a part of SNAPPER (Supporting Nature and People – Partnership for Enduring Resources) Project) – a stakeholder coalition that includes government, industry, and civil society seeking to address overfishing issues. As part of its SNAPPER involvement, TNC is currently collaborating “on a data-driven, transparent, and adaptive management system that also ensures prosperity and well-being of the fishing communities and businesses that depend on it,” TNC Director of Fisheries for Asia Pacific Peter Mous said.
“After working closely for years with more than 250 fishers across Indonesia, it is important that buyers around the world support these fishing communities as they make real change here on the water,” Mous said. “We look forward to engaging with other companies interested in making a commitment to the sustainability of this fishery as Norpac has. Together, we can create a tipping point toward healthy and profitable fisheries."
The health assessment process for the fishery is something that TNC is working closely with fishers on, in an effort to build a comprehensive data collection program for the region.
“Participants have a position tracker on board and photograph each fish they catch, with the images later analyzed for location of catch as well as species and size composition. These data are forwarded in real time to the Indonesia Agency for Marine Fisheries Research, where they are analyzed to inform management of this important fishery," TNC said. "As of January 2019, over one million individual observations have been recorded, vastly improving the data available and reducing the time and cost of sharing this critical data."
Technology by Insite Solution is also being used by stakeholders to provide electronic data capture at processing plants at several landing sites. The technology serves to automate the capture of species and size information, transferring data real-time to the program’s data server.