SFP report: Path to mahi sustainability requires more data

Published on
December 20, 2018

The Sustainable Fisheries Partnership released its latest sector report on mahi, finding that the biggest obstacle to the fishery reaching its “Target 75” goal is a lack of data in the fishery. 

The report, released on 19 December, indicates that 59.3 percent of the mahi fishery can be considered either sustainable or improving. That number is largely related to eight fishery improvement projects (FIP) covering the mahi fishery, with the largest of those centered in Peru. 

“The mahi-mahi FIP in Peru produces by far the largest of this ‘improving’ volume (53,297 tons),” the SFP report said 

Peru produces the largest amount of mahi in the world by a significant margin, with 61,900 metric tons (MT) of mahi produced in 2015. That total is followed by Ecuador, at 11,400 MT; and Indonesia at 11,300 MT. Together, the three countries represent 70 percent of the world’s mahi production. The three countries currently have FIPs that could be expanded to cover larger portions of their fisheries. 

“Mahi is an important large pelagic commodity, especially in the U.S.,” SFP CEO Jim Cannon said. “We’re pleased to see so many fisheries already functioning sustainably or involved in improvement projects that are showing progress. This is good news for the sector.”

According to SFP, if FIPs in Peru, Ecuador, Indonesia, and Costa Rica are expanded to cover the entirety of those nation’s production, the improving category would increase by another 15.3 percent. 

The biggest obstacle, however, is a complete lack of data on the stock status of mahi. A highly migratory species, there are no reference points to determine if the status of mahi is sustainable. There are also few management measures in place, and no harvest control rule in the Eastern Pacific fishery, which accounts for the lion’s share of mahi production globally. Catch data is also incomplete, with low observer coverage. 

Despite that, ongoing improvement efforts, participation in the Supply Chain Roundtable, and focus on Regional Fishery Management Organization (RFMO) level improvements represent positive signs that the mahi fishery is heading in the right direction, according to SFP. 

“Mahi is a very important item to both retail and foodservice,” Guy Pizzuti, the category manager for seafood at U.S. grocery retailer Publix, said. “As an industry, and as we continue down this journey toward a more sustainable supply, mahi needs to be part of the discussion. While many FIPs are already in place, faster progress is needed. It is our hope that this mahi roundtable will unite all the necessary stakeholders so that we may begin working toward a better RFMO solution.”

Image coutesy of Sustainable Fisheries Partnership/Pedro Sousa 

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