Impact investors are ready to invest increasing amounts of impact capital in sustainable fisheries; what’s missing are profitable businesses and organizations with the capacity to accept investment. These profitable “investible entities” aren’t emerging apace because the entrepreneurial ecosystem to develop their business capacity is lagging.
Rising ocean temperatures are causing significant changes with devastating impact on the ecosystem. Worldwide, the warmer and more acidic ocean conditions in the tropics have caused mass bleaching of anemones and corals. A new study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B supports findings from another recent study in the journal, Nature, that the bleaching of anemones has a severe impact on anemonefish, like clownfish and dire consequences for marine life in general.
The latest study looked at the metabolic rates between fish from bleached and unbleached anemones. Even though there was no discernible difference in activity between the two groups of fish, the study found that the “[s]tandard metabolic rate of anemonefish from bleached anemones was significantly higher by 8.2% compared with that of fish residing in unbleached anemones, possibly due to increased stress levels.” Reduced spawning frequency and lower fecundity are two of the negative impacts that were previously observed.
The study published in Nature in 2017 focused on the hormonal stress response and reproduction of anemonefish in bleached anemones. The 14-month monitoring study found a strong correlation between the anemone bleaching and the anemonefish’s stress response and reproductive hormones. Anemonefish in bleached anemones had a 73% decrease in fecundity compared to anemonefish in unbleached anemones. They spawned half as frequently, laid 64% fewer eggs, and experienced a significantly higher egg mortality in incubation. The authors were unable to determine why the bleaching of anemones would trigger a stress response in anemonefish. They offer the possibility that bleached anemones may provide less cover and have reduced neurotoxicity of venom which leads anemonefish to perceive a greater risk of predation. 
According to Beldade, Agathe, O’Donnell, & Mills (2017), there are “…[a]t least 50 species of fishes and facultative symbionts of sea anemones worldwide…as many as 12% (56/464) of coastal fish species depend directly, either for food or shelter, on organisms capable of bleaching. While the strength of such dependency varies greatly, if these species suffer even a fraction of the impact found for anemonefish, then a short-lived bleaching event could decrease the reproductive output of at least 12% of species, especially those highly dependent on corals or anemones.”
The two studies contribute to a growing library of research on the effects of global warming on marine life and highlights the importance of understanding how individual differences in stress responses influence a species’ chances of survival.
Why does Wilderness Markets care about anemones and anemonefish? Because our work requires us to look not only at enterprises and fishery management, but at the entire ecosystem to properly account for business risks. Learn more about us.
 Norin, T, Mills, S. C., Crespel, A., Cortese, D., Killen, S. S., & Beldade, R. (2018). Anemone bleaching increases the metabolic demands of symbiont anemonefish [Abstract]. Proceedings of The Royal Society B. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2018.0282
 News Deeply. (2018). Executive Summary for April 13th. Oceans Deeply (Bleaching of Anemones Makes Life Harder for Clown Fish). Retrieved from https://www.newsdeeply.com/oceans/executive-summaries/2018/04/13.
 Norin, et al.
 Beldade, R., Blandin, A., O’Donnell, R., & Mills, S. C. (2017). Cascading effects of thermally-induced anemone bleaching on associated anemonefish hormonal stress response and reproduction. Nature Communications, 8. doi: 10.1038/s41467-017-00565-w
Developing and Implementing SIMP Compatible Seafood Data Reporting and Traceability System in the Crab Supply Chain
Problem Statement and Opportunity
The U.S. implementation of the Seafood Import and Monitoring Program (SIMP) on 1 January 2018 establishes reporting and recordkeeping requirements to prevent illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) seafood from entering the U.S. The onus of proof is placed on the importer of record to provide and report key data from harvest to U.S. entry. In geographically diffuse supply chains, like blue swimming crab from Southeast Asia, with thousands of “points of entry”, i.e., fishers, tracking landings to the vessel is far less straightforward than short and narrow supply chains, such as skipjack tuna or sardines. This reporting requirement, while worthwhile, will require U.S. seafood importers to incorporate cost-effective traceability initiatives in their often-complex supply chains.
There is a growing appreciation that the needs of ﬁshers and their communities must be addressed in order to improve the underlying causes of ﬁshery exploitation in the developing world, particularly for small-scale ﬁsheries. -California Environmental Associates
The requirement also presents an opportunity to promote resource sustainability through supply chain transparency and catch monitoring. Despite pledges to abide by size limits, U.S. importers of blue swimming crab (BSC) have difficulty ensuring their supply chain partners are buying only crabs larger than the agreed minimum size of 10cm and excluding berried females. The application along with a web-based reporting tool we developed can meet the requirements of the SIMP, as well as the European Catch Documentation (CD) requirements, and elucidate the in-country supply chain. By tracking landings by vessel and by harvester, this tool further provides the opportunity to address key social and environmental outcomes associated with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which gives seafood importers a mulit-purpose toolkit to both decrease their reporting costs and increase the sustainability of the crab stocks.
The opportunity to spur social and economic impact should not be underestimated. Educating, engaging and rewarding fishers and communities directly for complying with ecological goals like minimum size, berried females, no-take areas, and more offers an opportunity to engage communities directly in resource management and provide key links to SDGs. Aside from nascent work by Fair Trade and SmartFish, there are few fishery sustainability efforts that actually benefit the fishers that form the foundation of many supply seafood chains. Indeed, most efforts impose costs on fishing communities—time, foregone income, capital for new equipment—without providing benefits. Our tool allows identification of compliant fishers, so they can be awarded price premiums and other incentives.
Supply chain transparency is beneficial to the U.S. importer not only in terms of identifying good actors and meeting reporting requirements, but also gives them an edge in the marketplace full of otherwise opaque supply chains.
When initially considering how to provide BSC supply chain transparency from the ocean to the end buyer, we researched existing options, hoping to find one that could be customized to the supply chain. We conducted a desk review, scouring the internet and our personal network to identify all available options. In total, we reviewed nearly forty systems that provided varying levels of traceability; of these, we interviewed approximately six potential providers that met or came close to our key considerations:
- Ease of use – the user interface needed to be easy for data collectors in Indonesia and importers in the U.S. to use
- Utility for marketing purposes – a consumer-facing component was a must
- Facilitate regulatory compliance – must collect and provide data required by the SIMP and EU CD in a straightforward format
- Mapping – needs to provide maps of fishing locations to determine which areas are best for avoiding undersized and berried crabs
- Business model – a cost effective and durable business model that did not result in excessive fees or costs to each level of the value chain
- Data access, storage and ownership – data must be accessible by multiple parties within the value chain, stored in Indonesia, and owned by the funding company
- Reasonable set-up costs – ideally, a system would be compatible with existing software and hardware and would require little in the way of training. A team should be able to begin data collection with a few hours or less of upfront training on the system interface and they should be able to readily convey to the fishers the benefits of the system.
- Geographic and cultural relevance – the system needed to function in rural, relatively isolated areas with little to no telecommunications access
- Engage Harvesters and Vessel owners in order to build their understanding and the relative importance of adhering to harvest control regulation
- Ease of integration – overall, the platform needed to be easy to readily integrate into the supply chain.
Findings from Assessment
None of the reviewed systems met the requirements of the lead firm with the exception of the Pelagic Data Systems units for vessel management, i.e., vessel tracking. Due to the cost of acquisition and the relatively high ongoing costs of use, these were installed on a trial basis. This test was not successful, and cheaper, more effective units were identified.
Not finding a suitable existing program, Blue Star Foods decided to develop their own application to gather data tied to their marketing goals and objectives around supply chain integrity. The SIMP and EU CD data requirements were integrated into the data collection system. Wilderness Markets worked closely with an app-development team to develop an Android and iOS application and support the field trials. After the initial field trials, the system was deployed to in-house teams from Blue Star Foods Indonesian partners, consisting of procurement and quality control specialists.
Implementation and Deployment
Data was collected at selected mini-plants and landing sites during a six-month period. Both harvesters and data collectors were simply encouraged to log landings during the pilot phase without any indication or reference to IUU or other considerations. They were not penalized or otherwise reprimanded for reporting undersized or berried crabs during this time period. Vessel tracking data was collected for a select number of boats during this period, which could be matched to landings data.
Initial learning points
- Data collection required additional training of procurement and quality control teams. This in turn required an additional budget to be implemented effectively.
- The pilot only covered a small portion of overall U.S. imports from Indonesia (less than 1%) – the current opacity of the supply chain means we did not know how much each mini-plant contributes to the supply chain before the pilot
- The system efficiency is high enough that recording all landings at a mini-plant or at a landing site is possible, though unless a quality control individual is onsite continually, it cannot guarantee there will be no side selling unless all buyers agree to use the system.
- The data feedback loop to management has been significantly shortened and is possible in nearly real-time allowing:
- Faster identification of low productivity landing sites
- Faster identification of high productivity landing sites
- Faster identification of undersized and/or berried crab seasons and locations
- Data integrity and accuracy continues to be an issue and needs to be worked on – Due to their small size, most vessels are unregistered so vessel identification is challenging. Usual data integrity and accuracy issues for data collection operations exist, such as ensuring consistent data entry, checking entries for errors, etc.
Initial Data Findings
- Initial indications, based on sampling approximately 10% of the harvest per vessel, are that up to 25% of landings can likely be classified as IUU (berried females & sub 10cm).
- Boats with lowest supply chain loyalty appear to have higher levels of IUU (an assumption to be tested in additional sites)
- It is now possible to identify the specific boats that are causing the high levels of infractions, and to address with through the supply chain in a focused manner.
- Less than 20% of the surveyed vessels were responsible for 80% of the IUU landings
Fishery Management Implications
The ability to specifically identify vessels not complying with agreed harvest controls will permit a more targeted, focused and cost-effective approach to monitoring and enforcement of infractions. With less than 20% of the vessels are causing 80% of the issues with regards to IUU landings, efforts can be made to reduce IUU in a focused manner.
The data provides:
- Ability to provide shore-based landing information
- Ability to identify both geographic and seasonal potential closure options based on real data
- Ability to target enforcement based on recorded infractions
Links to SDGs
In addition to the business and fishery management implications, the findings are directly linked to at least three SDGs:
SDG 8 Decent Work and Economic Growth
Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Biological data indicates a quick (less than 1 year) stock recovery when undersized crabs are left in the water, thereby increasing the economic value of the fishery and decoupling growth from environmental degradation (Target 8.4)
SDG 9 Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Increasing the transparency of the supply chain means that small-scale enterprises, like the mini-plants, can have better access to financial services (Target 9.3).
SDG 14 Life Below Water
Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
Using the data generated by the app, progress can be made towards sustainably managing fish stocks, combatting IUU, and providing meaningful market access for small-scale artisanal fishers (Targets 14.4, 14.6 and 14.B).
Recommendations and Next Steps
A key recommendation of the initial pilot is the need to establish unique vessel IDs with the support of local government authorities, which will allow more meaningful monitoring and enforcement of landings.
In addition, the need to engage with, and involve, other firms purchasing from the fishery was identified in order to reduce the opportunities for side selling.
A second phase is being planned to address the constraints of the first. The goal of the second phase is to:
- Capture a minimum of 25% of the Blue Star Foods Indonesia sourcing;
- Integrate improved vessel activity geographic data
- Expand geographically
- Include more processors, mini-plants and fishers in Indonesia, particularly in co-packer conditions
- Replicate into the Blue Star Foods Philippine supply chain
The drivers of market access compliance requirements, improved social and financial impact in in artisinal fisheries and greater supply chain integration are powerful drivers for change in any industry. The relatively low cost now associated with data capture tools mean lead firms can utilize almost ubiquitous cell phone availability to cost effectively assess the degree and extent of IUU in their supply chain, while strengthening their impact objectives and improving market recognition.
This approach provides resource managers and NGOs as well as development agencies with a relevant, cost effective tool to engage private sector supply chains in achieving SDGs in a measurable, informed and data driven manner.
 “U.S. Seafood Import Monitoring Program”. Retrieved on 7 March 2018 from: https://www.iuufishing.noaa.gov/RecommendationsandActions/RECOMMENDATION1415/FinalRuleTraceability.aspx
 “Sustainable Development Goals”. Retrieved on 19 March 2018 from https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/?menu=1300
 “Capture Fisheries Standard (CFS)”. Retrieved on 8 March 2018 from: https://www.fairtradecertified.org/business/producer-certification
 “Rescate de Valor”. (English: Value Rescue) Retrieved on 8 March 2018 from: http://rescatedevalor.org/
A previous post outlined our pilot project in California with Changing Tastes; this post provides a peek into a culinary workshop that is part of the planning phase.
As part of our work to reintroduce local fish back into local markets in California, our foremost consideration is how to reintroduce them to our plates and palates. Without delicious dishes and high quality products, winning back a space on the plate will be impossible.
To discover how local fish can create a winning combination of flavor, presentation, and affordability for chefs in corporate dining, our partner Changing Tastes arranged a culinary workshop in California. More than a dozen chefs and several sustainability managers from the same or similar groups joined us in mid-November at a test kitchen in the Bay Area to develop the recipes and messaging needed to successfully bring back Californian West Coast Groundfish.
Palate and Pocket
To explore which fish could please both palates and pocketbooks, the chefs spent the morning preparing a sampling of locally-caught fish, including Dover and petrale sole, boccaccio, chilipepper and black gill rockfish, and sablefish (AKA black cod) provided by Real Good Fish. These fish represent the spectrum of species that are part of the West Coast Groundfish program, one of the most sustainably managed fisheries in the world, and one that has the fish to prove the stocks are healthy. These are fairly common landings that span from very inexpensive Dover to higher-end sablefish. The variety of textures, thicknesses and tastes were highlighted in Latin and Asian-inspired themes, such as black gill fish tacos with mango slaw (Chef Ochoa), petrale-coconut ceviche (Chef Fogata), black and white coconut crusted black cod (Chef Thomas), and steamed Szechuan boccaccio (Chef Hernaez).
Heart and Mind
Equally important to taste and cost is persuading diners to try these new dishes. In a nearby space, restaurant industry marketing and communications executives as well as sustainability managers and representatives of groups that support sustainable seafood brainstormed marketing ideas for the dining spaces where the fish will be offered to diners next spring.
Common themes included emphasizing that the fish is locally-caught in California. They noted that “local” often implies fresh to diners. Including a map of the different ports where the fish originates from for the pilot, and identifying fishermen and women from each was another popular theme.
Marketing experts, chefs, sustainability managers and others agree on not using the word “groundfish” in marketing materials. This group and others realize that this collective term for these species isn’t one that necessarily appeals to diners, nor does it help them understand the diversity of species and flavors within the broad category.
Among potential evaluation methods and data points, our participants identified these as the most likely:
- On-site, established food focus groups
- Measurement of orders by volume
- Gauging the relationship between price of dishes and purchases
- Comparison to sales of other seafood dishes
- Comment cards
- Online commenting system
- Surveys, potentially with incentives, and/or provided in a quick format via touchpad at the point of purchase
- Querying the culinary team during and after the pilot
Our next tasks are confirming which specific dining halls and cafes will participate from each of the corporate dining partners and confirming likely order volume by species or species group, e.g., petrale sole is a species and rockfish is a species group. Almost simultaneously, we will work with the corporate dining partner and their existing distributors to determine the likely sources, feasible start dates, and volumes. We look forward to sharing updates as this work progresses in 2018.
The Need for Sustainable Fisheries Finance
We know all the problems associated with overfishing and we know that research shows:
1) that switching to more sustainable management will lead to increased revenues and food security; and
2) the cost for doing so exceeds what can be provided through traditional development and philanthropic organization.
How do we get past the second to make the first possible? Supported by the World Bank, and with input from dozens of impact investors and fishery experts, we detail the main barriers and potential approaches to overcome them in our latest paper: Developing Impact Investment Opportunities for Return-Seeking Capital in Sustainable Marine Capture Fisheries.
Who Should Read This Paper
This paper provides an overview for international development organizations, development finance institutions, NGOs, and the governments they work with of (i) the key concerns that impact investors may have when considering the financing of sustainable fisheries, and (ii) potential approaches for public-private partnerships to overcome these obstacles. It is intended as a primer for these actors, to understand the perspective of the commercial impact investor.
This paper explains the central challenges that keep impact investors from participating in sustainable fisheries, and is structured along four main barriers:
- A lack of reliable fishery data
- Ineffective fisheries management
- Unreliable infrastructure systems
- A paucity of investment-ready enterprises
It then proposes three models for sequencing and combining different sources of capital to overcome these obstacles:
- Serial approach: Public and philanthropic funders first support the establishment of strong governance arrangements, improved data collection, and fishery management. Once these initiatives mitigate some of the risk associated with a fishery investment, then return-seeking investors are incentivized to finance sustainable infrastructure projects (often through public-private partnerships) and/or enterprises along the value chain, focused on outcomes that achieve a triple bottom line: social responsibility, economic value, and environmental impact.
- Consolidated approach: Governments negotiate agreements with a single private sector entity or cooperative to delegate fishery management responsibilities. The private firm or cooperative then simultaneously invests in fishery data, management, infrastructure, and triple bottom line enterprises.
- Parallel approach: A range of investors and other stakeholders (for example, governments, nonprofit organizations, fishing collectives) develop coordinated investments to improve fisheries data, management, infrastructure, and triple bottom line enterprises. Efforts can be separately funded, but they work in tandem and share the ultimate goal of achieving sustainable catch with an appropriately capitalized and profitable fishing sector.
Each of these sequencing models presents particular challenges and opportunities. Structuring investments to achieve triple bottom line outcomes is still a new idea within the fisheries sector. There is growing evidence from other sectors, however, including agriculture and forestry, that these types of investments are achievable. Examples include the Moringa Fund and Livelihood Funds, which bring together public institutions, private investors, and NGOs, using innovative investment models to simultaneously address environmental degradation, climate change, and rural poverty while helping businesses become more sustainable.
Attracting impact investments is critical for the future of fishery recovery and expansion—these projects cannot rely on short-term loans and grants; they need longer-term finance that is committed to sustainability and responsibility. Development organizations, NGOs, and other noncommercial actors have a critical and catalytic role to play in crowding-in impact investment for sustainable fisheries by sharing risk with the private sector, promoting policy reforms, and funding interventions (through either concessional lending, grants, and/or technical assistance) with the intention of removing the barriers to impact investment.
 The Moringa Fund is a EUR 84 million investment fund that targets profitable large-scale agroforestry projects with high environmental and social impact in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa. The fund makes equity investments of EUR 4–10 million per project and adds value through its technical skills, environmental and social expertise, and global network.
 The Livelihood Funds are a series of investment funds created by Danone, which brings together investors—including Schneider Electric, Crédit Agricole S. A., Michelin, Hermès, SAP, CDC Climat, La Poste, Firmenich, and Voyageurs du Monde—to invest over EUR 40 million to finance nine on-the-ground programs for mangrove restoration, agroforestry, and rural energy.
A recent paper (September 2016) in the scientific journal of the National Institutes of Health exploring the implications of climate change on global fisheries revenues provides some sober reading.
The report explores how fisheries revenues of maritime countries will be impacted by climate change as a necessary “crucial next step towards the development of effective socio-economic policy and food sustainability strategies to mitigate and adapt to climate change”.
The report shows “that global fisheries revenues could drop by 35% more than the projected decrease in catches by the 2050 s under high CO2 emission scenarios. Regionally, the projected increases in fish catch in high latitudes may not translate into increases in revenues because of the increasing dominance of low value fish, and the decrease in catches by these countries’ vessels operating in more severely impacted distant waters. It finds that developing countries with high fisheries dependency are negatively impacted.”
See: Lam, Vicky W. Y. et al. “Projected Change in Global Fisheries Revenues under Climate Change.” Scientific Reports 6 (2016): 32607. PMC. Web. 18 July 2017.
The significantly higher impacts on developing country revenues both for export and domestic consumption are documented in the paper and provide further evidence to the risks climate change creates for wild capture fisheries.
Significant attention is being paid to the oceans. Between the UN Oceans Conference as the recent Economist leader, attention is (finally!) being given to the significant and numerous benefits and threats to the worlds oceans.
At a time of increasing populations, increased demand for healthy proteins – and arguably a climate imperative – human consumption of seafood is increasing exponentially. Wild capture seafoods are increasingly losing ground to aquaculture raised seafoods, for better or worse.
So why should we continue to care about wild capture seafoods? Isn’t sort of like expecting we should still live off wild buffalo and antelope?
It is – and the problem is, many emerging market countries are still dependent on wild capture fisheries for social, political and economic outcomes. Many emerging market economies depend on a sustained source of seafood to address social and poverty concerns. Fisheries related political decisions –in the form of subsidies and / or gear – are good politics at election time. And the national and global supply chains themselves are valuable sources of foreign currency in many countries.
While significant progress has been made to improve fisheries management in developed countries with strong rule of law, challenges remain on the open ocean and in many emerging markets. As summarized in a series of reports we completed, these challenges cut to the core of why fisheries remain “unmanaged”. We would argue that a developed world, legal first approach (which we call the “serial” approach) will not work in many emerging markets.
What is instead needed is a concerted effort to engage fishermen, gather reliable data and find culturally appropriate solutions in conjunction with the supply chain. These efforts can be complimentary – and inform – efforts to address legal and regulatory requirements in “parallel”, allowing fishermen to realize the benefits of changes in practices, presenting value chain actors and regulators with clear data on landings, and doing so in a culturally appropriate manner.
Our recent efforts in the United States and in Asia continue to support this theory.
In the United States, now that the west coast groundfish fishery is in recovery, fishermen face the reality that the market price is below the cost of landing the fish as management costs have increased while revenues have remained flat (or declined when adjusted for inflation) for the higher volume species. The market, in effect, compares US groundfish to imported white fish and sets the price at the lower of the two, in large part due to the volumes, but also due to the lower costs of imports. Unless prices and market access improve for US groundfish fishermen, its unlikely many of them will remain in business (and this in turn will imperil the funding of the fisheries management system).
In Indonesia, the bigger challenge relates to the lack of registration of fishermen and vessels, poor landings data and limited data on fishing sites and practices, particularly in artisanal fisheries which are increasingly being drawn into national and global supply chains due to the increased demand. In many countries, fishermen are essentially unregistered, have limited access to services and are not legally recognized. In nearly all the emerging market value chains we reviewed, the first legally recognized stage of the value chain was the aggregator or middle person. This legal recognition is important – it enables access to government and private services and it allows managers to define and engage with users.
It will continue to be challenging to manage these historically productive fisheries unless these challenges are addressed in a culturally appropriate manner.
Wilderness Markets is developing a range of measures building on the interests of fishermen that address these challenges in US and developing country fisheries. These include improving market access and recognition for fishermen with industry; addressing fishermen registration and organization; ensuring good data is collected and made available to all relevant parties as well as aligning economic incentives. An essential underpinning of all this work is the need to engage with, and facilitate, changes in practices in existing firms.
As we are seeing in our work, systems change is possible, it takes the combination of a bottom up approach and a systematic assessment of metrics to keep everyone on track.
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.
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.
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:
- geographies and
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Our latest project, West Coast Groundfish Regional Market Demand and Opportunities, explored the market demand for U.S. West Coast groundfish in Oregon, Washington, and California. This post is a brief summary of that work. For more, please check out the executive summary of the report.
Faced with plummeting catch levels and fish populations near collapse, many fishing boats left the U.S. West Coast groundfish fishery in the 1990’s and 2000’s. Commercial seafood buyers on the West Coast then turned to other whitefish, including Asian tilapia and Alaskan pollock.
Today, under new management systems, U.S. West Coast groundfish populations have rebounded and are fished sustainably – more than 20 species now rate as a “green, best choice” or “yellow, good alternative” with the Seafood Watch program, and 13 have received Marine Stewardship Council certification. With this conservation success in hand, how does U.S. West Coast groundfish regain a competitive market position and ensure that the recovery story includes economic success for fishermen?
Several studies have looked at the production side of this question, outlining supply chain hurdles and infrastructure issues that keep fishermen from reaping higher prices. This study is the first to look at the demand side of the market: how much whitefish West Coast 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.
Through a combination of market analyses, buyer surveys, industry interviews, and expert review, Changing Tastes and Wilderness Markets examined the current demand for West Coast groundfish in Washington, Oregon, and California. We identified categories of commercial buyers (e.g., restaurants, retail grocery stores) and types of seafood products that hold the greatest potential to increase economic gain for fishermen. We also explored the key barriers that fishermen will need to overcome to sell more product in these markets.
Our results shows that focusing on selling minimally processed products to grocery and full service restaurant sectors holds the greatest potential to improve sales and profits for U.S. West Coast groundfish fisheries. Consequently, the next logical step is to test these findings. To do so, and help U.S. West Coast fishermen expand into regional markets, we recommend the development and launch of a pilot project. 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 to West Coast markets. If successful, it will establish new markets and demonstrate the benefits and availability of West Coast groundfish to buyers and suppliers.
We welcome your feedback on the market report and pilot concept. We hope that this research will stimulate additional conversations and partnerships that can help the U.S. West Coast groundfish fishery become a model of both ecological and economic success.