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TNC launches innovative project to provide traceability and added value to small-size fishing products in the Los Rios Region

The objective of the project is to install a device on the boats of the Chaihuín and Huiro fishermen syndicates that would permit the fishermen to verify the origin of their catch, thus permitting them to gain access to sustainable food markets at national and international levels and thus obtain better prices for their products and to improve the management of marine resources. 

The device will permit the end consumer to know where the product was extracted, the methodology used, the size of the fish, among other characteristics. This information would then be transmitted via a QR code printed on the packaging of the final product, which can be scanned and read by a mobile phone.

08 May 2014. In the last 10 years, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has been working with the coastal communities of the Los Rios Region and neighbors of the Valdivian Coastal Reserve. As a way of offering them a helping hand that would permit them to overcome the problems small-size fishing is facing at present, TNC has collaborated with a Chilean - North American company called Shellcatch which will provide a modern monitoring system that uses cameras and GPS. 

The system will permit the fishermen to make their products traceable which, in turn, would increase their profitability on the market. The Chaihuín and Huiro syndicates with whom TNC has signed cooperation agreements were chosen to implement this project as a way of strengthening the added value of the products caught by the Chaihuín and Huiro fishermen and, at the same time, it would permit them to develop an adequate management of marine resources and thus preserve the biodiversity of the sector. 

Both fishing villages organized launches of this project with the participation of Ann Maria Bravo, the Los Rios Region Secretary of Economy (SEREMI). At the event, Ana Maria Bravo expressed the government’s appreciation of the initiative since the strengthening of artisanal fishing is part of one of the 50 measures contemplated for the first 100 days of the new government. “This type of projects is just what we want and what we need and I really value this opportunity of getting together and opening up new possibilities through this type of strategic alliances”, she said 

Layla Osman, TNC expert in Marine Conservation pointed out that “this project meets most of the needs that we have discovered for small-size fishing in the Los Rios Region. It is a region where TNC has focused on applying the best available science for the management of natural resources. However, we are also concerned about whether the products of artisanal fishing are valued in the markets where they could reach premium prices as they can provide the buyers of such products with verified information about the place of origin, what type of product it is or the method by which it was extracted, among others. We think that the Chaihuín and Huiro sea products can reach these premium markets as they come from areas surrounding the Valdivian Coastal Reserve which is declared a high value conservation area of marine biodiversity ”. 

The expert also said that the aim of the pilot project implemented by Shellcatch and the Huiro and Chaihuín fishermen's syndicates was not only to improve the profitability of the fishermen but also to promote sustainable management of resources existing in the region. “In other words, they can reach higher economic profits without over-exploiting the sea. “And creating an added value in marine products would help to achieve this ”, Osman said. 

Alfredo Sfeir, associate manager of Shellcatch indicated that “this tool creates a notable opportunity for the end consumer to responsibly participate in his or her purchases thus ending the purchase of products whose origin is prohibited and that, in the long run, distort information, price and traceability of the sector. This means that this system provides the fisherman with a commercial and environmental advantage, in addition to giving the end consumer reliable information”. 

The strategy of the Shellcatch Project is to introduce the products of both syndicates to more competitive markets. The aim is for consumers willing to pay a fair price to get access to such products and this way to guarantee that they know where the product comes from, the date and method of extraction, and that the catch takes place at a time when extraction is not prohibited. 

Sfeir explained that Shellcatch is a technological solution consisting of a device that is placed on the boats and that contains a camera to take photographs of the catch and area and a GPS to locate the place. This way, the place where the fishermen make their catch is registered and it also shows if they work using adequate methods. 

The information provided by the device is transmitted via satellite to a receptor installed in the head offices of every syndicate. This way it is possible to issue a certificate of the exact geographic point where the product was extracted, the methodology used and the size of the catch, among other data. This information would then be transmitted to the consumer using a QR code printed on the packaging of the final product, which makes it possible to scan it and read it on a mobile phone. 

This is done using the information sent by Shellcatch to the processing plant called Pesca en Línea (Fishing on Line) located in the town of Niebla. Shellcatch is a social economy company dedicated to the sale of the products of artisanal fishing. 

“We are interested in the information that Shellcatch can provide since, at present, we can certify fishing products using basic tools but not a computerized system as this company does. It is really quite valuable for us from a commercial point of view”, Claudio Barrientos, marine biologist in charge of the area of innovation and development of Pesca en Linea. 

For the Huiro fishermen's syndicate it is a question of opportunity that would permit them to improve the quality of the products existing in their catchment areas. “Apart from the sales of abalone, there are other types of seafood that are not so commercially popular and using this project we could improve the success of such products and increase their sales which, today, are aimed mainly for the consumption of local people. They do not have the same success rate in the general market”, David Cárcamo, president of the Huiro Fishermen's Syndicate explained. 

At present, the devices are already installed in the boats of each syndicate and the receptors that will receive the information are working. From next week on, real time data will be collected and the whole verification system will be implemented. Subsequently, buyers of the products will be sought. “ Once we finish the project we will see the results. Some fishermen are perhaps skeptical as they think that the information will be used for inspections and that is not the idea. The idea is that it is a verification system and it is implemented for the benefit of Chaihuín and Huiro ”, Layla Osman added.

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