Panama Pacific mahi mahi
Fishery Improvement Project
Last update: September 2012
Species: mahi-mahi (Coryphaena hippurus)
FIP Scope/Scale: Fishery level
Fishery location: Panama
Date Launched: December 2011
FIP Stage: 2, FIP is formed
Current Improvement Recommendations:
- Implement a monitoring system in order to provide inputs to stock assessment
- Implement a harvest strategy and management plan based on a risk analysis
- Collect information systematically about the interaction of fishing gear with protected, endangered, or threatened (PET) species.
The mahi-mahi (Coryphaena hippurus) fishery in Panama started in the mid 1980s. Mahi-mahi is a highly migratory pelagic species reported in more than 30 percent of the ocean surface, living mainly in tropical and subtropical areas of the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans. It is considered of seasonal occurrence in temperate areas. The mahi-mahi is a fast-growing predator that lives up to 4 years and can reach a length of 2 meters. The mahi-mahi is a species associated with the blue waters indicating high concentrations of dissolved oxygen.
The average length of captured individuals is 101.1 cm. Very few captured specimens are shorter than 69.9 cm, the estimated average length at first maturity.
Periods of greater availability of mahi-mahi in Panamanian waters occur during April and May and again from November through January. Mahi-mahi fishing in the Panamanian Pacific depends on seasonal migratory patterns of the species and the behavior of the market. Artisanal fisheries operate in waters relatively close to the coast.
Mahi-mahi catches is mainly for export, with the United States as the most important market. During 2010, according to ARAP statistics, approximately 1,800 tonnes of mahi-mahi was landed.
Fishing methods and gears
The catches of mahi-mahi in the territorial waters of the Republic of Panama were artisanal and industrial until December 2010, when the Government of Panama issued Executive Order No. 486, prohibiting the use of longline vessels over 6 GRT. Then, in December 2011, Administrative Order No. 125, issued by the Aquatic Resources Authority of Panama (ARAP), allowed only the use of longline with hand roller, with no mechanical, hydraulic, or electric connections, and a maximum of 600 hooks. These measures placed important limits on fishing effort, and this fishery is now 100-percent artisanal.
Longline is a recognized fishing gear, the use of which has incidental turtle and shark catches. In Panama, circular hooks (#13) are the most popular, so observed related mortality for turtles have been low. An even greater abundance of turtles in Panamanian waters occurs when the mahi-mahi season has finished. The impact of longline fishing on sharks still must be evaluated. There is no reported interaction of longline fishing with seabirds, though this assessment must be part of a monitoring program.
Beginning of the FIP
SFP is associated on this FIP with CeDePesca, a South American NGO whose mission is to work toward socially, economically, and ecologically sustainable fisheries. Recognizing the importance of having sustainability certification to continue supplying the US market, Grupo Panalang Union Inc., the most important Panamanian mahi-mahi company, contacted CeDePesca staff at the end of 2010 in order to work on an improvement plan.
SFP is working with its major buyer and supplier partners to support the improvement efforts.
Main problems of these fisheries are:
- Lack of stock assessment and quotas for the exploited stock
- Consequent lack of biological reference points to guide the management
- Lack of adequate rules to follow a harvest strategy
- Lack of systematic evaluation of the interaction of longlines with protected, endangered, or threatened (PET) species.
- Collaborate with ARAP, fishery stakeholders, and research institutions in implementing a plan for research and monitoring in the mahi-mahi fishery, making the necessary arrangements to evaluate the status of the stocks at regional level.
- Promote the development of evaluation tools to help estimate the status of mahi-mahi population along the eastern Pacific, including the adoption of biological reference points and coherent rules to guide the decision-making process (harvest strategy).
- Promote the adoption of the Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries (EAF), carry out information dissemination activities such as workshops, including all stakeholders and training activities for personnel involved in research on variables affecting this fishery.
- Assist the fishing authority in planning a program of observers aboard the longline fleet that would not only gather relevant data on species, but also introduce systematic observation of how this type of fishing interacts with PET species, to estimate real levels of catch and discarding of non-target species.
- Promote studies aimed at identifying, and possibly mitigating, the impacts of this fishery on target stock and other ecosystem components using the Risk Assessment framework as a tool to understand risks and ways to minimize them.
- Enhance the transparency of research results and fishery information.
Grupo Panalang Union Inc (producer and processing seafood company)
Limnology Center at University of Panama
Artisanal Fishermen Federation (FENAPESCA)
CeDePesca is conducting a feasibility study against the standards of the Marine Stewardship Council to define an appropriate improvement plan together with Grupo Panalang Union Inc. It is estimated this study will be finished by May 2012.
CeDePesca has held meetings and dialogues with stakeholders including the Panamanian Association of Seafood Exports (APPEXMAR); fishermen’s associations; Grupo Panalang Union Inc. representatives, and other stakeholders, such as researchers from the University of Panama, to fill the void of research and mitigation of environmental impacts, and to facilitate the establishment of rules, strategies, and recommendations for a scientifically-based TAC.
Furthermore, a draft cooperation agreement between the University of Panama and CeDePesca is being discussed to collaborate on research activities for this and other Panamanian fisheries.
For a comprehensive description of FIP results, click here.
If you would like more information about the FIP or wish to support the FIP, please contact SFP.