Governance or a Markets Approach? Both. Adopt a Parallel Approach to Fisheries Reform

In our previous posts, we’ve discussed reasons and ways for involving private capital in fisheries reform, including taking a lead firm approach. This post about the parallel approach is a direct follow-up to the three models we propose for investment sequencing; we recommend checking out that post first.


Is there only one way to make a fishery sustainable? We don’t think so. That said, we do know that there are some key areas that need support on the way to sustainability. Indeed, whether to consider a “governance” or “markets” approach to fishery sustainability is a false dichotomy. In areas where a market is present, which is most, governance and markets must be considered simultaneously and balanced for the short and long-term benefits.

The working model we’re developing adopts a parallel approach to address the challenges associated with developing countries fishery reform. In this approach, the markets, and by definition, the private sector, are key partners. The commercial relationships with harvesters developed by this model are critical to ensuring support for long term fisheries reform given the lack of representation and organization at the base of the value chain. We explain our thinking in more detail below.

Approaches to Management

Under ideal circumstances, fisheries reform would have a “serial” approach to design, implement, and enforce regulations. Scientific and economic data would be the bases for robust fisheries management. With reasonable assurance that stocks will not be overfished, value chain participants can plan investments in tandem with stock recoveries.

Serial or Parallel Approach?

Emerging market fisheries face significant social and political concerns to the serial approach. For example, legislating changes that result in reduced fishing effort to promote species and stock recovery has political and social ramifications that not all governments are prepared to address. Furthermore, the cost of enforcing such changes are likely to be higher than what is considered normal – both in monetary and social terms.

Parallel Approach

Given the desire to reform fisheries while also demonstrating the economic benefits associated with such reform, we propose that a “parallel” approach may be more appropriate in emerging markets. In this approach, different actors work in tandem to develop and implement measures to increase sustainability.

What’s are the Management Basics?

Investments to improve data and management are primary concerns for fisheries reform as these will demonstrate the success and costs of various efforts. Though species, geographies and cultural norms vary, there are some agreed-upon fishery management principals which will be informed and supported by good data. These include five parameters for:

  1. size,
  2. sex,
  3. seasons,
  4. geographies and
  5. ability to access to the fishery.

Generally, social and legal changes necessary to create and enforce these management measures increase as complexity and distance from the resource increases. The degree to which the value chain can enforce them runs in the opposite direction. That is, the value chain has the greatest potential to enforce size, sex and seasons, but their ability to enforce rules decreases for geographic restrictions and even more so for access control. Rulemaking must involve local society and governments, and their participation is particularly important for complex tasks like access and geography restrictions.

The blue swimming crab (BSC) fishery in Indonesia is a good example of a parallel approach opportunity that currently engages both the value chain and government. National government has already adopted and passed restrictions regarding size and sex. The challenge now is how best to implement and enforce these efforts.

Working Model

In our parallel approach model, value chain stakeholders in Indonesia have begun gathering data to help inform and reinforce decision-making. At the same time, the provincial government, in cooperation and communication with the local community, will set standards and provide enforcement for the five parameters. Managing seasonality, geographic limits and access restrictions are also actionable through the value chain. However, these will require a higher degree of social acceptance, enforcement and value chain adoption. Good data from working closely with cooperatives and harvesters will provide foundation for the harvest control strategies. We envision starting with the easiest strategies first, essentially moving from 1 (size) down to 5 (access control) over a period of less than four years for creation and testing of the rules. It is imperative that the local government and community create the standards to ensure the lead firm can work to establish sustainability within the fishery.

The value chain and lead firm approaches provide a valuable opportunity to implement effective enforcement needed to achieve sustainability. Value chain participants can insist on the adoption of these standards, which may then be verified based on effective data collection and using internal and external audits. The current working model also includes a proposal for the lead firm to make purchases through a preferred supplier network currently formed as a cooperative. Consequently, access to finance for value chain stakeholders will be contingent upon their compliance with the rules. Working in collaboration with local cooperatives and harvesters, the economics of this fishery are such that all participants should benefit from improved BSC size and  abundance.

Final Thoughts on the Parallel Approach

Ideally, government would provide the necessary framework and policies to implement these strategies, while providing effective enforcement as in the serial approach to reform. However, in the absence of this involvement, providing market-based opportunities to adopt these measures in a socially acceptable manner may provide a viable alternative approach, which is why the parallel approach is the most viable in many fisheries like BSC in Indonesia.

West Coast Groundfish Pilot: What’s Next for Developing Local Markets?

A previous post outlined the results of the recent market demand research for West Coast groundfish. This post follows-up with more detail on the proposed West Coast groundfish pilot.

Purpose and Intent

And now what? That was our first question after learning the results from the market demand research. Those results indicated that next efforts to improve demand and pricing for West Coast groundfish should focus on selling minimally processed products to suppliers and buyers in the grocery retail and full service restaurant sectors. The answer is a pilot project; one designed to test the findings which will help U.S. West Coast fishermen expand into regional market.

This project would aim to raise commercial buyers’ and suppliers’ awareness of U.S. West Coast Groundfish as a domestic, sustainable source of whitefish and prove that these fisheries can provide a reliable supply of local fish. As a result, it will establish new markets and demonstrate the benefits and availability of West Coast groundfish to other buyers and suppliers.


A pilot project, with defined sales periods and goals, will provide room to experiment to build relationships and to understand the market dynamics. Without a pilot, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to rally collaborative action or justify further investments in the fishery. Harvesters and buyers envision a pilot as being a first step in creating an ongoing sales effort that expands beyond the West Coast within two to three years, possibly sooner.

A successful pilot is key to having larger, sophisticated customers purchase significant quantities for a substantial part of their operations; the pilot also develops the tools they need to successfully use and continue purchasing the fish. Assuming the pilot results in positive values, harvesters, trusts, buyers, NGO’s, and potential investors will have information necessary to make decisions about infrastructure, marketing and other investments. In addition, they can start sizing-up plans in the local, regional and national markets, all of which are important to increasing quota attainment.


To create organizational capacity that endures beyond the period of the pilot, it needs to be structured carefully. The fishermen and the buyers need to feel comfortable with their roles and build knowledge useful for future efforts. Because of this, the pilot project will endeavor to work within the existing supply chain to build the ability of the harvest groups and processors to provide reliable supply. Memorandums of understanding and contracts for the pilot have to be written so all the parties involved understand their roles and feel comfortable with their responsibilities. Of utmost importance, the pilot design must incorporate a way for the value chain to continue the work after the pilot concludes.

Target Outcomes

Some specific questions the pilot should be designed to answer revolve around the conditions and requirements for supply and pricing. At the outset, stakeholders will need to address legal restrictions on collaboration. The pilot should also define the incentives or conditions needed to gain cooperation between the processors and the groundfish harvesters. Also, the pilot should delineate the amount of fish, prices, and timing (flow of supply and seasons). Finally, the pilot will try to determine the level of transparency needed to build trust so that value chain actors can work together as a team to create value.

Final Thoughts

Regardless of who carries out the work, a pilot is the best next step for the West Coast groundfish stakeholders. The ultimate goals are easy – improve profits for those paying for management – but the route has to be carefully plotted. Building trust and knowledge and demonstrating improved values are key. We can get there, but we have to keep the focus on the end goal of a sustainable fishery, which means ensuring profitability for the harvesters.

West Coast Groundfish Regional Market Demand and Opportunities

Our latest project, West Coast Groundfish Regional Market Demand and Opportunities, explores the market demand for U.S. West Coast groundfish in Oregon, Washington, and California. We examine how much whitefish West Coast commercial buyers purchase; what potential there is to sell sustainable, U.S. West Coast groundfish in these regional markets; and how fishermen can increase the price per pound that they receive for their fish.

Learn more about our findings: Executive Summary, Wilderness Markets & Changing Tastes, West Coast Groundfish Regional Market Demand and Opportunities

Indonesian Blue Swimming Crab Value Chain Summary

Wilderness Markets is pleased to share our recently completed summary report on the Indonesian Blue Swimming Crab.Cover Wilderness Markets Indonesian Blue Swimming Crab_final single pages Jan 23 2016_Page_1

Our report takes a detailed look at the following components:

  • Can the Indonesian Blue Swimming Crab Industry become sustainable?
  • Blue Swimming Crab Fishery Profile
  • Challenges
  • Opportunities and Recommendations

We are grateful to the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and to the fishermen and value chain participants in Indonesia for their support of this work.

To learn more and download this report. 

West Coast Groundfish in California Value Chain Assessment

Wilderness Markets is pleased to announce the release of our summary findings of a value chain analysis of the West Coast Groundfish fishery in California.Wilderness Markets West Coast Groundfish in California VC Assessment Final Dec 2015_Page_01

Building off our analysis in New England, Mexico and Indonesia, we sought to understand the value chain dynamics impacting ground fish harvesters in California.

Unlike many of the fisheries we’ve reviewed, the West Coast groundfish fishery in California is a management success. Of the 90 plus species managed by the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan, the management council currently considers only five overfished, and classifies each of these species as “rebuilding.” In 2014, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified 13 trawl-caught species and the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program rated 21 trawl caught species “Green, Best Choice” or “Yellow, Good Alternative.” This is a significant change from 2000 when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) declared the fishery a national disaster.

Despite this significant ecological progress, fishing and conservation communities continue to share concern about the long-term economic sustainability of the fishery, particularly as the fishermen continue to bear management costs that have increased over the past 5 years. Our assessment identified a number of operational inefficiencies in the value chain that are hurdles to increasing the market value of seafood from this fishery; as long as the product is undervalued, the fisherman will struggle economically.

To learn more and to download the report, read on!

Indonesia Sustainable Fisheries Value Chain Assessments

We are pleased to announce the release of our Indonesia Sustainable Fisheries Value Chain Assessment Synthesis report.Indonesia fisheries

Based on field based assessments of the Blue Swimming Crab, Snapper and Tuna value chains, we’ve synthesized our findings into this report in order to provide interested parties and practitioners with an understanding of the challenges and opportunities for impact finance in these fisheries.

Our field work across these three fisheries (and more than 5 value chains) was inspiring, enlightening and challenging. We are greatly indebted to the Indonesian people for their hospitality, interest and insight.

We would like to thank the David and Lucile Packard Foundation as well as the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation for their support of this work.

Learn more and download the report.

Wilderness Market Issues RFP for West Coast Groundfish in California Market Research

Wilderness Markets invites eligible market research firms to respond to a Request for Proposals (RFP) intended to develop and improve end market research of the recovered West Coast ground fish fishery in California. The ultimate goal of the research is to improve the economic value of products from this fishery.

With a specific focus on the California ITQ ground fish fishery, the selected firm will be expected to identify and quantify the current key channels of distribution for fishery products by species, and provide insight and recommendations into optimum channels of distribution based on product and species. The nature of this market means that primary research is anticipated.

This research is intended to provide current and new market participants, as well as potential investors, with the needed quantifiable data related to opportunities in the groundfish market in order to make sound investment decisions.

Firms are requested to submit their proposals, detailing their technical approach, timeline and budget based on the RFP by December 18, 2015. Following a selection process, the successful firm is expected to present results by the middle of April 2016.

This work is being developed and implemented with the support of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.


Participation in this RFP does not constitute an agreement or award, nor does it obligate the organizers to award a contract or to engage any party. The organizers reserve the right to change, modify or cancel this RFP at any time prior to a contract award.

Download the RFP

Wilderness Markets West Coast CA Groundfish Market Research RFP Updated Dec 8 2015 circ