Feature Story

Schooling together: peer to peer learning for sustainable fisheries management

August 2, 2019

To prevent overexploitation of the fishery resources, regional authorities in Galicia have worked in close coordination with scientists, fisherfolk, and the private sector to design management systems that are now internationally recognized for their effectiveness. Photo: Rafael Ramirez Lee/Shutterstock.
To prevent overexploitation of the fishery resources, regional authorities in Galicia have worked in close coordination with scientists, fisherfolk, and the private sector to design management systems that are now internationally recognized for their effectiveness. Photo: Rafael Ramirez Lee/Shutterstock.

Public and private sector delegations from Ecuador, Indonesia, and the Philippines attended a workshop in Galicia, Spain, to learn about internationally recognized Galician fisheries governance systems in order to replicate best practices in their own countries.  

For thousands of years, fishing has supported the towns and villages along the banks of the Galician rias. The fjord-like bays, which spread inland from the Atlantic Ocean to the hilly landscape of northwestern Spain, support an industry that employs about 5 percent of the local population.

Over 70 percent of the seafood consumed in Spain comes from the 4,400 registered fishing vessels in Galician ports. In 2017, Galicia reported more than 200,000 metric tons of total seafood landings, which represent more than 500 million euros in sales.

In a place whose cultural identity and economy is closely tied to the fishing sector, it is a government priority to ensure that fish and marine invertebrate stocks are harvested responsibly and sustainably. To prevent overexploitation of the fishery resources, regional authorities have worked in close coordination with scientists, fisherfolk, and the private sector to design management systems that are now internationally recognized for their effectiveness. 

“In Galicia, it is very important to properly plan for effective fisheries management. This management consists of three interacting elements,” said Marta Villaverde Acuña, Deputy Director of Fisheries and Seafood Marketing at the Regional Government of Galicia. “The first element is to have scientific data regarding the status of fish stocks; the second is that there must be structured mechanisms for consulting fisherfolk and arriving at a consensus about management practices; and the third is that managers consider the social and economic impact of fisheries management and strive to guarantee the long-term sustainability of fishery activities.”

These three elements were common themes at a June 26-28 peer-to-peer knowledge exchange event organized by Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP).  At the event, those involved in the Galician industry shared their experiences, best practices, and knowledge with delegations from the three countries that receive support from the Global Marine Commodities (GMC) project.

Funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the project contributes to the transformation of the seafood industry by mainstreaming sustainability across the value chain. This initiative achieves this goal by employing and strengthening tools such as corporate purchasing policies, sustainable marine commodity platforms, and fisheries improvement projects. The GMC project is an interregional initiative implemented by the ministries and bureaus of fisheries, production and planning of Costa Rica, Ecuador, Indonesia, and the Philippines, with technical support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

In Galicia, representatives from the fisheries and government agencies of Ecuador, Indonesia, and the Philippines were given the opportunity to interact with fisheries regulators from the Galician government. Representatives also met with port authorities, who monitor and collect data about fish catch and sales, and with fisherfolk from cofradias, or local fishing development organizations, who participate directly in decision-making regarding the management of Galician fish and marine invertebrate stocks. The cofradias and cofradia federations have been granted territorial fishing rights by the government of Galicia, and are actively involved in setting harvest quotas, monitoring fishing efforts and catches, establishing bans, and deciding on the distribution of fishing efforts. Through its engagement with the cofradias, the Galician government has been able to broaden fisheries management decision-making, thereby improving compliance and facilitating data collection.

Viviana Jurado is a biologist from the Ecuadorian National Institute of Fisheries, the government agency in charge of studying and monitoring fish stocks within Ecuador’s national jurisdiction. She said the learning exchange helped reinforce the ways public-private partnerships can establish good fisheries management plans. 

“The Ecuadorian industry is noticing that, independent of which country you are talking about, all the participants here follow the same technical guidelines for fisheries monitoring and research,” Jurado said.  “I hope to see the private sector representatives return to Ecuador and share this vision with their industry partners.”

Jurado is currently working on an innovative partnership with the Ecuadorian Small Pelagic Fishery Improvement Project to study small pelagic fishery stocks. 

Participants in the Galician event were also able to visit several lonxas, or controlled seafood auction centers, where catch data is collected and artisanal and industrial fishers are provided a space to sell their catch to first buyers. 

At the lonxas, participants learned about the Pesca de Galicia electronic system, which was established by the regional government as a tool to collect data about fishing activities in Galician jurisdictional waters. Through this system, fisherfolk register their fishing journeys, fishing gear utilized, location of catch, total sales by species, and other data in designated ATM-like computer stations located at fishing ports across the region. The system can also provide updates to fishers regarding fishery or area closures.  

“Our platform ensures that we collect good information at the first sale of the seafood product, which allows us to trace the product from the location it was caught or collected and further along the supply chain,” Acuña said. “It also ensures that we have reliable and up-to-date information about our fisheries to inform sectorial decision making.”

Participants also had the opportunity to share their strategies for addressing challenges related to starting up, implementing, and funding the distinct fisheries improvement projects and national platforms supported by the GMC project. 

After listening to GMC project partners present their experiences from the three countries, Rahmat Malianda, Deputy Director of the Fisheries Division from the Ministry of National Development Planning of Indonesia, said that he better-understood the importance of stock assessment data for management decisions, and the benefit of an institutionalized dialogue with the sector. “Venues such as the national platforms are the perfect place to achieve this,” Malianda said.