Over the past decade, Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) has been deeply involved in several fishery improvement projects in Mexico, some of which involve fisheries that intend to pursue Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification. These fisheries, and a few others that have already been certified, have implemented voluntary measures to meet certification standards (e.g., improved landings data collection, compliance monitoring). Consequently, our technical experts have identified a set of improvement needs that are common to many fisheries in Mexico (download the report here). These issues would be most efficiently addressed by general policy improvement at the national level, to ensure that these improvements are permanent and also implemented in non-certified and non-FIP fisheries.

One of the most common needs shared by many Mexican fisheries is for improved knowledge on the status of the stocks for target species. This includes conducting, updating, or enhancing stock assessments, or simply improving knowledge of the target species stock status through the use of abundance estimates. This often requires the implementation of an improved data-collection system. After extensive consultation with industry and NGOs in Mexico, SFP has developed a set of policy recommendations to address this issue (available in English and Spanish) and will begin facilitating domestic (Mexican) industry outreach to government regarding the need to develop a plan to increase number, frequency, and transparency of stock assessments. While promoting improvements in policy will be most effectively undertaken on the ground in Mexico by Mexican stakeholders, support from the US supply chain will be an important component in gaining the participation of the Mexican seafood industry, as well as providing supply chain support for the policy recommendations.

As such, SFP has formed a Mexican Seafood Supply Chain Roundtable (SR). A primary role of the SR participants will be to motivate their vendors in Mexico to join a domestic multi-stakeholder group called Impacto Colectivo por la Pesca Mexicana, which is pressing the government to implement policy reforms, or to participate in policy outreach activities facilitated by SFP.

In addition, a number of Mexican fisheries are critical to the success of the Target 75 Initiative, including Gulf of California shrimp; Gulf of California, Pacific, and Gulf of Mexico swimming crab; Pacific and Gulf of Mexico snapper and grouper; Pacific and Gulf of California small pelagics; Pacific purse seine tuna; Gulf of Mexico octopus; and Gulf of California squid. While some of these fisheries are covered by species-specific Supply Chain Roundtables (octopus, small pelagics, squid, and tuna), others are not (crab, shrimp, and snapper and grouper), and progress toward sustainability will be monitored by the Mexican Seafood SR. In some cases, the roundtable may even act to support or catalyze new FIPs in these fisheries. See the T75 tab for more information.

Unlike most other SRs the Mexican Seafood SR is not working within one seafood sector only. The focus of the Mexican Seafood SR is general policy improvement at the national level, to ensure these improvements are permanent and also implemented in non-certified fisheries. Consequently, the SR contributes to Target 75 in several sectors, namely wild caught Large Shrimp, Snapper & Grouper and Swimming Crab, which are of particular interest to the US market. In Squid and Octopus any FIP Support and FIP catalyzation efforts are directed by the applicable sector focused SRs.

Please find an overview of all T75 relevant fisheries SR here.

Current Objectives: 

  1. Ensure diverse and robust participation of the seafood supply chain in the Impacto Colectivo por la Pesca Mexicana, which is working to promote fisheries policy change in Mexico.
  2. Monitor progress of T75 fisheries toward sustainability and support or catalyze fishery improvements where needed. 

Action Recommendations for SR Participants:

  1. Encourage your supply chain to become involved in in-country efforts to reform Mexico’s national fisheries policy, such as Impacto Colectivo por la Pesca Mexicana, and advocate for policy improvements. 
  2. Ensure existing shrimp, crab, and grouper FIPs are making progress and consider expansion to a national FIP approach where necessary.
  3. Support development of Gulf of Mexico and Pacific snapper and grouper FIPs by assisting with supply chain analysis, contributing funds, and/or encouraging vendors in Mexico to become involved in FIPs. 
  4. Support vaquita conservation efforts by donating to VaquitaCPR to fund removal of illegal gillnets in the Upper Gulf of California.
  5. Sign a public letter of support for alternative gear development, targeting government and producers, and pledging to develop a market for vaquita-safe shrimp when such a product becomes available.

A summary of SR progress and activities can be found here

Mexican Seafood SR Update - August to September 2019

This briefing provides an update on progress, activities and news in the areas of interest to to the SR. It also indicates any actions and further support needed. A full summary of past progress, incl. details from past quarterly updates, can be found here.

1Improvement efforts in Target 75 priority fisheries

Gulf of Mexico octopus:

Update: The Yucatan Octopus FIP was publicly launched in September 2019. The FIP report is available here. This FIP intends to expand national industry participation, as well as reinforce engagement efforts with management authorities.

Further support needed: Contact SFP if you are interested in involving your supply chain in this FIP.

Gulf of Mexico snapper:

Update: SFP is working with US importers to develop a plan for catalyzing a Mexican snapper FIP in the Gulf of Mexico. 

Further support needed: Consider your level of interest in supporting Mexican snapper improvement work; join the July 31 meeting at https://zoom.us/j/826995701.

Pacific snapper and grouper:

Update: Nothing new to share at this time. 

Further support needed: Contact SFP if you are sourcing snapper, grouper, triggerfish, or yellowtail from the Gulf of California and would like to be connected with existing or developing FIPs.    

Pacific swimming crab

Update: Nothing new to share at this time. 

Further support needed: Contact SFP if you are sourcing crab from Mexico (the Pacific or Gulf of Mexico) and would like to be connected with existing or developing FIPs. 

2. Support to established FIPs and improvement efforts

Please find an in-depth description of all sustainable or improving Mexican fisheries under T75 priority sectors, their improvement efforts, and their current progress rating here. The table below contains a brief overview of the FIPs of primary interest to this SR, their FIP progress ratings as shown on www.FishSource.org, and recently reported activity or results.

3.  Information on T75 fisheries or overarching sustainability issues

Pressure on Mexico to Take Action to Prevent the Extinction of the Vaquita Porpoise

  • In July 2019, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee designated the Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California as a World Heritage Site in Danger. This action is meant to publicly raise the profile of the situation and exert pressure on the Mexican government to design a set of corrective measures and a timeframe for their implementation. 
  • In August 2019, CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) threatened sanctions against Mexico because of illegal trafficking of totoaba swim bladders. CITES has given Mexico six months to report advances on the efforts to increase enforcement of the gillnet ban, increase operations/investigations to combat the illegal totoaba trade, and comply with the requirements of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Danger designation. If these actions are not taken by November 2019, CITES can apply sanctions on any product from Mexico that is covered by CITES.
  • The largest source of pressure on Mexico, and the one that has the most potential to impact the entire Mexican shrimp industry, including the legal trawl fishery, is the US Marine Mammal Protection Act. Under the import provisions of the US Marine Mammal Protection Act, foreign fisheries that may place marine mammals at risk must have regulatory programs that are comparable to what would be implemented in the US, or they may not export product to the US. Earlier this year, comparability findings were issued to all legal upper Gulf of California fisheries, except for the rodeo-style curvina fishery. As reported in the April 2019 SR Update, the new government of Mexico has altered the plans of the previous administration, leading the US Department of Commerce to reconsider the current comparability finding of all fisheries in the Upper Gulf of California. The US Department of Commerce has provided the government of Mexico with specific details as to what must be included in a regulatory plan to maintain the comparability findings. If the government of Mexico does not comply, other fisheries in the Upper Gulf of California, including the industrial trawl shrimp fishery, are at risk of losing their comparability finding and being banned from import into the United States. There has been no public announcement of progress on this issue by either government since April.

Illegal Gillnet Shrimp Harvest in the Upper Gulf of California

  • The 2019-2020 Mexican Pacific shrimp fishery is set to open at the end of September. Though the ban on use of gillnets for shrimp fishing is still in place, the leaders of the fishing communities and cooperatives in the upper Gulf of California have publicly announced their intention to return to the water en masse. They are frustrated by the lack of responsiveness by the government to renew the subsidies and/or approve an alternate gear they feel provides equivalent harvest capabilities. The federal government has drastically reduced funding for enforcement, and representatives from CONAPESCA and the elected Baja California government have publicly stated that the ban on gillnet fishing for shrimp in the upper Gulf will be repealed and commercial fishing for totoaba will be re-authorized. These actions suggest that there will be no enforcement of the gillnet ban, and that illegal gillnet-caught shrimp from the upper Gulf will be available in the marketplace soon.
  • Gillnet-caught shrimp from the upper Gulf of California is under a US embargo – it is illegal to import this product into the US. We fully expect that some of this product will still make its way into the US market, so please be careful in your purchasing.
  • The greater concern, as discussed during the February 2019 Mexican Seafood Supply Chain Roundtable meeting, is the potential for illegal gillnet shrimp to be laundered during processing and exported to the US market disguised as legal trawl-caught shrimp. Since January of this year, Amende & Schultz, Eastern Fish, Meridian, and Ocean Garden have been working to implement a control document system for processing plants. This system is now in place. The four aforementioned importers have required the processing plants in their supply chain to sign a letter of warranty agreeing 1) to process only product fully conforming to all applicable national and international laws, 2) to participate in audits to review legality of product, 3) that failure to comply with these points can lead to penalties such as termination of purchase agreements, and 4) that the purchaser may disclose any resulting information to third parties. The audit process was successfully piloted over the summer at eight processing plants throughout the Gulf of California.  Spot audits will be conducted during the 2019-2020 shrimp season to deter laundering of illegal gillnet-caught shrimp.
  • Now that the control document letter of warranty and audit process have been finalized, we invite other purchasers of Mexican shrimp to implement control documents to help deter laundering of illegal gillnet shrimp. The letter of warranty is a pledge to not sell illegal product to anyone. Thus, penalties can be imposed by any buyer who has required the letter of warranty. The more buyers who have committed to impose the requirements and potential penalties listed in the letter of warranty, the stronger the control document system overall. Even if you do not have the funding to conduct audits, you can still require your plants to sign the letter of warranty. Templates for the letter of warranty and information on conducting audits will be sent to all SR participants sourcing Mexican Pacific shrimp.

Further support needed:

FishSource User Survey – Input Needed

  • SFP is conducting a brief survey on FishSource, our publicly available online resource about the status of fisheries, fish stocks, and aquaculture (www.FishSource.org).
  • If you are a user of this website please take a few minutes to fill out the survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/FNR6J7Z

SFP’s Policy Improvement Outreach

  • In October SFP will begin facilitating communication between Mexican industry and government regarding improved data collection and stock assessments. Communications will be directed at both the executive branch and legislative branch.

Background information on the issues, along with actionable advice on how to support policy reform in Mexico, will be shared with SR participants. While most actions must be undertaken by Mexican stakeholders, there will be opportunities for US importers to support the work.

4. Expansion of the SR

The Mexican Seafood SR is currently open to expansion to any US-based importer of Mexican Seafood. Current work is focused on Pacific shrimp, Gulf of Mexico and Pacific crab, and Gulf of Mexico and Pacific snapper and grouper. Pacific squid and Gulf of Mexico octopus are also of interest to SFP, but are addressed in more detail by the Global Squid SR and Global Octopus SR, respectively. 

Update: No new SR participants this quarter. 

Further support needed: Promote the SR to fellow industry and invite participation, and share your supply chain knowledge with SFP. Please contact Megan Westmeyer ([email protected]).