University study urges FIPs to deliver on promises


James Wright, Senior Editor

Published on
May 4, 2015

Fishery improvement projects, or FIPs, must do more than offer a promise of future sustainability, a team of researchers led by the University of California-Davis (UC Davis) concluded in a study published in the 1 May edition of the journal Science.

The policy forum “Secure Sustainable Seafood from Developing Countries” reported that FIPs must be “fine-tuned” to ensure fisheries make measurable progress as global demand for sustainable seafood grows.

“We’re cautiously optimistic that fishery improvement projects, which fast-track access to international markets, can lead to sustainable fisheries, especially in developing countries,” said professor James Sanchirico, associate director of the UC Davis Coastal and Marine Sciences Institute.

Because only 7 percent of Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)-certified fisheries are overseen by developing nations — which account for roughly half of the wild-caught seafood produced globally — the need for credible FIPs is crucial as leading retailers seek to offer only sustainable wild and farmed seafood at their stores, the study said. However, too little progress in management improvements is being made, the study authors said.

“It is hoped that the projects will protect marine life and ecosystems in areas where local and national governments have not acted to oversee sustainable practices, while also satisfying the demand for sustainable seafood,” said Gabriel Sampson, UC Davis graduate student and lead author of the study.

Sampson and colleagues added that retailers are already buying seafood from two-thirds of developing-world fisheries engaged in fishery improvement projects. If FIPs do not press for greater accountability, fisheries with full sustainability certification could find their market benefits diluted by the increased competition for a share of the global certified seafood market.

“The retailers and organizations involved with managing fishery improvement projects need to insist on progress toward reforms from the fishery as a condition for purchasing seafood from that fishery,” Sanchirico said. “This would likely lead to more durable conservation and greater assurance for consumers that marketing claims of ‘sustainable’ seafood are valid.”

Fishery management reforms include data collection and ongoing monitoring, strengthening harvest and access rights to the resources, limits on the catch, and instituting traceability throughout the supply chain.

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