Empowering Communities to Make Their Fisheries Thrive
FishPath brings scientific decision-making tools to artisanal fishing fleets across the globe.
In 2015, the fleet of wooden fishing boats that sets out each morning from the Peruvian town of Ancon had been catching less of just about everything—octopus, sea snails and crabs. For these dive fishers, a smaller catch means they earn less—and they needed to find a fix. They started to enact voluntary management measures to recover their fisheries, and then found a solid science partner in The Nature Conservancy, who introduced them to FishPath.
It’s an innovative scientific decision-making process designed by TNC to help local communities and government agencies renew and protect their fisheries.
Hundreds of millions of people worldwide rely on fisheries for their livelihoods. But overfishing and mismanagement are a problem in more than a third of the Earth’s fisheries. Most of those fisheries are unregulated and lack the support of sound science. Collecting information on the status of fish stocks—factors like fish size and reproduction rates—takes time, effort and expertise. For many communities, even basic data collection has been out of reach. Plus, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach that will work on spiny lobsters in Africa, red snapper in Mexico and whelks in Rhode Island.
FishPath is a program where TNC staff help communities evaluate the distinctive features of their fishery, as well as any available data, and then suggest options for management. “For many small-scale fisheries, FishPath opens a window for them to get concrete plans in place,” says Carmen Revenga, TNC’s Sustainable Fisheries Strategy Lead. “It gives them a path forward.”
An important part of FishPath is building trust with local fishers and supporting communities as they manage their own fisheries. In Ancon, local fishers worked with TNC staff to craft a community-based fishery management plan that included setting size limits and temporarily closing some local fishing spots to allow populations to rebound. Those decisions, paired with leadership and market incentives, helped improve the populations and local catch of snails and crabs in just one year.
Between TNC and partners, FishPath is in use in about a dozen countries around the world. The program is guiding management of similar dive fisheries in Chile, queen conch fisheries in the Bahamas and coral reef fisheries in Hawaii, and it’s at work in Kenya, Seychelles, Micronesia, Indonesia and Australia.