Chilean Common Hake
Fishery Improvement Project
Last Update: April 2013
Species: South Pacific hake (Merluccius gayi gayi)
- SONAPESCA (National Society of Fisheries),
- ASIPES (Southern Fishing Industry Association)
- Pesquera Bio Bio
- IFOP (Instituto de Fomento Pesquero/Fisheries Development Institute, a non-profit technological institute controlled by the Agency for Economic Development)
- SUBPESCA (Subsecretaría de Pesca/Undersecretariat for Fisheries)
- INPESCA (Instituto de Investigación Pesquera/Institute for Fisheries Research, an industry research center)
- Consolidate stock assessment model after the international peer review
- Develop a recovery management plan for the fishery with clear goals, terms, and harvest rules.
- Establish TAC according to the scientific recommendation.
- Collect data on the impacts in the seabed and demersal/benthic communities.
While artisanal production is mostly for local markets, the industrial production is exported. The most significant market for Chilean hake in 2011, mostly in the form of frozen fillets, was the United States (34%), followed by Germany (18%) and Italy (13%).
This FIP was publicly announced in May 2012. SFP is associated on this FIP with SONAPESCA (Sociedad Nacional de Pesca/ National Fisheries Society, the industry association leading the FIP) and CeDePesca, a South American NGO whose mission is to work for a socially, economically, and ecologically sustainable fishing activity. SFP is working with its major buyer and supplier partners to support the improvement efforts, while CeDePesca is acting in a technical advisory role to SONAPESCA in its pursuit of Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) full assessment.
One of the main troubles this fishery has faced is the long-term conflict between artisanal and industrial catchers, with the latter blamed for using trawling gears. SFP (working with buyers) and CeDePesca (working on the local level) helped to establish some dialogue between both sectors by 2007 and 2008, and the artisanal sector has been participating as a stakeholder in the certification process, while in the past they have boycotted it.
After Chilean scientists put in practice a key change for stock assessment modeling, the most recent evaluations showed that the status of the stock is barely at the limit reference point but the recovery process has stalled since 2010. FIP members have been helping the fishery face this problem by asking the government to undertake a peer review of the assessment model in order to give robustness to stock assessments. At the same time, the industry has understood the urgent need for a recovery management plan with clear goals, terms, and harvest rules.
Another important matter to be solved in order to get the MSC certification is to have a better understanding of the impacts on the ecosystem and to incorporate ecosystem data collection and analysis into the research plan.
A strong controversy surrounds the role of jumbo squid (Dossidicus gigas) as a predator of hake. Peer reviewers have accepted that jumbo squid should be counted as an extra source of natural mortality. Models including predation by jumbo squid showed that recovery of the stock would take place only with the closure of the fishery. However, this approach has been challenged as jumbo squid is a bycatch for the hake fishery, therefore fishing mortality for jumbo squid would also decrease and availability of food (hake) for this mollusk would increase, so the final result of closing the fishery would be very uncertain.
In addition, over the last 4 years, an artisanal fishery for jumbo squid has developed at the same time as hake has become more scarce, so now artisanal fishermen are interested in conservation of the jumbo squid and claim exclusivity for this resource.
This fishery has Walmart as one of the main customers and has been sensitive to Walmart’s commitment to sustainable seafood.
In May 2012, a formal FIP agreement was signed by SONAPESCA, CeDePesca, and SFP.
- Have a robust stock assessment after a peer review
- Develop a recovery management plan for the fishery with clear goals, terms, and harvest rules
- Establish TAC according to the scientific recommendationCollect data on the impacts in the seabed and demersal/benthic communities.
2007 – 2009
In 2007, the general manager of SONAPESCA approached CeDePesca in regard to better understanding the certification procedures and potential difficulties and solutions.
A number of meetings were held with industry leaders and the US supply chain encouraged a dialogue with the artisanal sector in order to smooth the way to the MSC seal.
An MSC pre-assessment was conducted in 2009.
In June 2010, the MSC announced that the Chilean common hake fishery was undergoing MSC full assessment. Currently, the assessment process is at stage 3 (information gathering, stakeholder meeting, and scoring).
In December 2010, the National Fisheries Council approved a quota cut for Chilean hake. The quota for 2011 was set at 47,000 tonnes, 14.5% less than in 2010, but still not sufficient to ensure full recovery of the stock.
After the full assessment started, the stock assessment results published in February 2011 and December 2011 estimated the stock was in significantly worse condition than believed before. Reproductive biomass had been under its limit since 2004, and while it has been recovering and fishing mortality has dropped during the last 5 years, the stock’s reproductive potential was still in a fragile state (RB=12.8% RB0) and age-structure remained unstable.
By the end of 2010, Subpesca had stated its intention to keep cutting the TAC during the next 2 years until it is in line with scientific advice. CeDePesca has been following up on this, encouraging TACs to be established strictly according to the scientific advice. Subpesca stated this will be done in steps during the next 3 years in order to lessen the socio-economic impact. The first year the curtail was 14.5%, and the second year it was a further 4%, though still not enough to ensure full recovery of the stock.
Subpesca contracted a peer review for the scientific model, which took place in September 2011, driven by two very well-known foreign scientists (Ana Parma and James Ianelli), and has named two officials to design (for the first time in the fishery´s history) a management plan.
April – June
In April, the Subpesca-contracted peer review was available to the public and the Hake Scientific Committee has started to debate how to include the main findings in further work.
In May, the first draft of a management plan was starting to be discussed with stakeholders. One of the topics of discussion with regard to the management plan is the improvement of the control measures to avoid under-reporting in both sectors (artisanal and industrial). As a background for these discussions, the Chilean Congress is discussing the new fisheries law and a discards regulation, in which very important topics are addressed, some of which were suggested by several improvement plans.
The formal FIP agreement was signed in May.
In June, CeDePesca sent a letter to the Congress detailing the improvements needed for the fisheries involved in FIPs.
July – September
Progress was dominated by discussion of the new fisheries law and no further advance for the FIP was possible.
October – December
The stock assessment, sent to Subpesca by IFOP, took peer reviewers observations into consideration. According to the assessment, reproductive biomass had not recovered since 2010 and remained at ~19% of B0, barely at its limit reference point, while age structure remained unstable. Nevertheless, recruitment seems not to have been impaired.
The 2013 TAC approved by the National Fisheries Council (NFC) was 40,000 tonnes, a 11% reduction in relation to 2012 and a 20% reduction in relation to 2010; however, as recovery has stalled, IFOP recommended that TAC should be around 26,000 tonnes to have a reasonable recovery expectation in the middle term, so the new TAC is still over the scientific recommendation.
At Subpesca’s advice to the NFC (page 37), the draft of the Recovery Plan for hake was delivered publicly and should be approved and implemented during 2013.
The Chilean National Congress finally passed the new fisheries law in which significant improvements are now binding:
- The new approach to discards includes an on-board observers program that will collect information and policies will be defined ad hoc according with the obtained data. Common hake is the first fishery where this new approach will be used.
- All fisheries will have to be managed in order to attain at minimum MSY.
- Decisions about TACs and Management Plans will be in the hands of Scientific Committees instead of NFC, which will remain as an advisor body.
- Sectorial quotas have been redistributed in favor of the artisanal sector for most of the shared fisheries (for example, the artisanal-sector quota for hake was 35% and now is 40%).
- ITQs can drop under conditions where rules have been violated.
January – March
In January, a meeting of the FIP members agreed on next steps after the fisheries law passed and the first draft of MSC assessment was delivered to the client. A workplan was drafted and the approval was postponed until March, after some legal issues related with the law would be resolved by the Constitutional Court and summer vacations would be over.
In January, Subpesca and CeDePesca held a meeting to discuss the necessary improvements in order to get a certifiable status for the fishery. As a result of the meeting, it was clear that:
- Further reduction of fishing mortality (F) is necessary in order to achieve a real recovery of the stock.
- Subpesca has already financially supported research plans to work on a better understanding of the interaction between hake and jumbo squid populations and therefore a better management approach for both resources.
- Subpesca has already planned to do a Management Strategy Evaluation as recommended by the peer review.
- Subpesca is prepared to execute the new discards policy for the hake fishery.
- Some kind of catch certificate for local markets should be implemented in order to minimize under-reporting.
- The Recovery Plan must incorporate the ecosystem approach in a more comprehensive way, including it in the Research Plan and management objectives.
Click here for a comprehensive description of FIP results