Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs): Updates from around the globe

A group of small fishing boats gathers in a harbor in Peru on a cloudy day

WWF helps improve fisheries around the globe. Here's a look at the latest updates from ongoing projects.

The Bahamas Fisheries Act, 2020

To ensure fisheries are sustainable in the long-term, consistent, and reliable management is needed. For eight years, WWF worked with local communities in The Bahamas to improve the management of the spiny lobster fishery. While the fishery improvement project (FIP) helped the spiny lobster fishery to become the first fishery in the Caribbean to achieve Marine Stewardship Council certification, it could not stop there: strong management needed to be put in place to ensure the spiny lobster fishery would continue to thrive for future generations. The FIP inspired the creation of the Fisheries Act, 2020—The Bahamas’ most comprehensive fisheries management framework to date. The Fisheries Act, 2020 focuses on long-term conservation, management, and sustainability of Bahamian fisheries, regulates fishing vessels, and helps prevent illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. With this new, improved management system in place, the Act is more than just another piece of legislation; it is an integral part of what makes The Bahamas a beacon of how to promote more sustainable fisheries.

Circle hooks in Vietnam

In traditional longline fisheries, there is a risk of the incidental capture of non-target species such as sea turtles and sharks. With the help of a FIP in Vietnam's Yellowfin Tuna fishery, fishers are slowly migrating from using longline gear to using handline methods and circle hooks. Since 2011, WWF and fishing industry partners have supported the use of circle hooks to catch yellowfin tuna to reduce interactions with sea turtles and sharks. In addition to promoting and expanding the use of circle hooks, the Vietnam tuna FIP delivered training on bycatch mitigation to more than 200 fishers and provided 400 handbooks that include protocols for safe handling and release of sea turtles and sharks. Since the launch of the Vietnam FIP in 2014, the use of circle hooks has helped decrease bycatch of non-target species such as turtles and sharks by 80%, reducing the impact of fishing on other marine wildlife. Projects like the Vietnam tuna FIP bycatch reduction program show that simple solutions like swapping hooks and information sharing can go a long way to reduce the impact of fisheries on the marine environment.

A blue swimming crab sits on a rocky beach

Thailand blue swimming crab

The Surat Thani blue swimming crab fishery is an essential industry for Thailand, with an export value of $60 million to $80 million. In 2017, WWF established a FIP to address the exploitation of populations in heavily fished inshore areas, the harvest of undersized crab, a lack of management plans, and reduced capacity to regulate existing enforcement. Through the active involvement of FIP stakeholders, this fishery went from being in danger of depletion to be on its way to becoming the most well-managed crab fishery in Thailand. Inspired by the success in Surat Thani, neighboring regions are planning to start blue swimming crab FIPs as well. The expansion of the FIP will not only benefit Thailand's fisheries and seafood industry but also support WWF’s theory of change that one successful FIP can inspire other similar fisheries to follow suit. The establishment and success of a FIP like the Thailand Blue Swimming Crab fishery can inspire governments, the seafood industry, and others to explore how a FIP can improve their fisheries economically and ecologically. WWF has seen this kind of ripple effect after working on FIPs in India, Peru, and Ecuador, and the Thailand Blue Swimming Crab fishery is a prime example of how this chain reaction to promote more sustainable fisheries starts.

Honduras and Nicaragua spiny lobster binational stock assessment

Lobster is the cash cow of Central America. Demand for the species is growing in US and European markets. WWF has been working closely with the Honduras and Nicaragua governments on spiny lobster FIPs to improve their management since 2012. Because the lobster in Honduras and Nicaragua are part of the same stock, it is important to ensure that both countries work together to manage and measure the health of the population. To advance towards this goal, we recently completed a huge milestone: the first-ever binational stock assessment across Honduras and Nicaragua. This was a big undertaking as it required collecting lobster catch data across both countries and collaborating on a scientific model to determine the health of the lobster population. The results of the assessment showed that the spiny lobster fisheries in both Honduras and Nicaragua are at their maximum level of exploitation—meaning that to ensure there are enough lobsters in the water in the future, the level of fishing should not increase. The scientists who conducted the assessment recommended that measures should be taken to (1) apply and enforce catch limits in both fisheries; (2) improve monitoring of traps by tracking the number and location of traps deployed and also ensuring traps are removed from the water in the closed season to prevent ghost fishing; and (3) strengthen enforcement to ensure fishers are following the rules. The international collaboration between Honduras and Nicaragua to implement this important assessment not only helps improve scientific knowledge of the health of spiny lobster in Central America but also acts as an example for other countries to work together to manage their shared resources.