SFP leading mahi research project in the Eastern Pacific Ocean
The Sustainable Fisheries Partnership is working with public-private partnerships, supply-chain actors, research institutions, and artisanal fishers to fill research and knowledge gaps in the stock structure and stock status of mahi in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.
Mahi – also known as dorado, dolphinfish, or mahi-mahi – lead transboundary and migratory lives in the Eastern Pacific, occupying nearshore, offshore, and international waters during their lifespan. While national-level and local management plans exist in near-shore areas where mahi is caught, regional plans for the fishery have yet to be implemented due in part to a lack of scientific information needed on stock structure and current stock status, according to SFP.
In 2016, the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission acknowledged gaps in knowledge about mahi stocks were contributing to inconsistent management measures across the Eastern Pacific fishery and limited engagement with artisanal fishers, the top producers in the fishery, in the decision-making process for management of the fishery. A resulting exploratory stock assessment conducted by IATTC identified genomics and tagging studies aid could help determine the health of mahi stock in the region and therefore could help with the development of regional management measures.
This new approach calls for collaboration with the Beyond Our Shores Dolphinfish Research Program, founded in 2002 and expanded to the Eastern Pacific in 2018, which focuses on mahi marking and recapture. The goals of this collaboration are to expand an existing mahi tagging program to improve knowledge of the species and fisheries in the region, collaborate with researchers, and engage in artisanal fishers in data-collection efforts.
“For a species as commercially and recreationally important as dolphinfish, the movements and use of habitat in the Eastern Pacific Ocean should be far from enigmatic,” Foundation Dolphinfish Research Program Director Wessley Merten said in a press release. “Given that this is the case, partnering with a consortium to integrate the public in our tagging program is a major step toward elucidating the species’ local, regional, and seasonal movements. This information will be incredibly useful for improving the management of this important resource to the region.”
Additionally, SFP is collaborating with COREMAHI, government research institutions includingPeru’s IMARPE, Ecuador’s IPIAP, and Costa Rica’s INCOPESCA, as well as researchers at Universidad Autonoma de Mexico, and fishers on a genomics study to determine if more than one stock of dolphinfish exists in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.
“Learning more about the distribution of mahi will allow us to see how extremely necessary it is for governments, research institutes, fishermen, and the industries implementing fishery improvement projects to work in a coordinated manner to achieve the sustainable management of this resource,” COREMAHI President Francisco Takahashi said. “For this reason, from COREMAHI we are contributing with this and other initiatives that will allow us to move in that direction.”
Conventional plastic dart tags and satellite tags will be deployed at tagging events in Ecuador and Costa Rica in January 2022. COREMAHI has gathered and delivered samples for the genomic study and will be key stakeholders in the recovery of tagged dolphinfish throughout the beginning of 2022.
The expansion of the DRP to Costa Rica and Ecuador is being made possible with the direct support from SR participants Alfa Gamma Group, Beacon Fisheries, Beaver Street Fisheries, Fortune Fish and Gourmet, Pacific Coral Seafood, and Quirch Foods, as well as retail partner Publix, with local support from Martec. The funding for this multi-sector genomic study comes from SFP, with the financial support of the GEF-funded Global Marine Commodities and the Walton Family Foundation.
Photo courtesy of Sustainable Fisheries Partnership