Overview

Over the past 15 years, 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 is 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.

For more details on the sustainability status of the fisheries, progress of the FIPs, and improvement recommendations, please click here.

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.

Improvement needs, objectives, and action recommendations for 2020-21 (see below) were developed and shared with the SR in March 2020. Due to COVID-19, approval of the workplan was delayed until September 2020, at which time SR participants approved the workplan and committed to undertake at least one of the listed activities.

Progress Update

A summary of past progress can be found in the SR Chronicles.

Current Objectives: 

  1. Promote fisheries policy change in Mexico through direct industry outreach to government or by encouraging robust industry participation in the Impacto Colectivo por la Pesca Mexicana.
  2. Monitor progress of key T75 fisheries (e.g., Pacific shrimp, Pacific and Gulf of Mexico crab, and Gulf of Mexico snapper and grouper) toward sustainability and support or catalyze fishery improvements where needed. 

Action Recommendations for SR Participants:

  1. Undertake actions to support national policy change work (actionable advice will be conveyed by SFP throughout the year).
  2. Support progress in Mexican FIPs in key sectors (i.e., shrimp, crab, snapper, grouper), and encourage key FIPs to expand to national coverage.
  3. Buyers of Pacific shrimp should purchase from Mexican Shrimp Council participants (or ask vendors to join the Council) and require full traceability incorporating review of vessel monitoring system (VMS) data.
  4. Buyers of Gulf of Mexico snapper should encourage Mexican vendors to participate in the new FIP and provide financial support to the FIP, as able.
  5. Buyers of Gulf of Mexico seafood should request Gulf of Mexico FIPs to collaborate to address shared challenges and participate in implementation of control documents to combat illegal fishing.

Mexican Seafood SR Update – 2020

This briefing provides an update on progress, activities, and news in the areas of interest to the SR. It also indicates any actions and further support needed.

1. Improvements and activities in Target 75 priority fisheries

Gulf of Mexico snapper and grouper:

Update: The Mexican Seafood Supply Chain Roundtable’s Gulf of Mexico snapper FIP initiation is now progressing through virtual/remote means. One-to-one virtual meetings will be planned in October with prospective FIP participants to present the FIP and enroll participants. The FIP should be launched by the end of the year.

COBI’s Mexico Campeche and Tabasco red snapper FIP has been deactivated due to fisher difficulties securing the appropriate permits from CONAPESCA.

Further support needed: Contact SFP if you are interested in involving your supply chain in the SR’s snapper FIP initiation work.

Pacific snapper and grouper: 

Update: The Guaymas finfish FIP and the El Rosario finfish FIP have both converted to comprehensive FIPs . 

Further support needed: If you are sourcing snapper or grouper from the Pacific coast of Mexico, please ask your supply chain if they are involved in any FIPs, and if they are not, ask them to become involved.  

Pacific swimming crab

No update.

Further support needed: Nothing at this time.

Gulf of Mexico blue crab

No update.

Further support needed: Nothing at this time. 

Pacific shrimp

See Section 3, below, for an update on the Upper Gulf of California Regulatory Program, which will impact shrimp fisheries and could eventually lead to the restoration of the US MMPA comparability finding and the end of the embargo on Upper Gulf of California seafood products. The government of Mexico must still formally submit this regulatory program for review, and the US government must conduct an extensive review process. Given the history of illegal fishing and lack of effective enforcement in the region, combined with the publicly stated intentions of many artisanal fishermen to continue using gillnets, the US may wait to review the new regulatory program until the efficacy of enforcement has been demonstrated.

Further support needed: US importers of Mexican shrimp must continue to push for legal verification and traceability of all shrimp products, to ensure no illegal product is entering markets in the US.

2. Updates from existing FIPs 

Please find an in-depth description of all sustainable or improving Mexican fisheries under T75 priority sectors, their improvement efforts, and their current progress ratings here. Below is 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. FIP Progress Ratings and Recent Activity/Results in bold text were changed/added this quarter.

Mexico Campeche blue crab

FIP Implementer: Alimentos del Mar de Norte America/ Ocean Technology

FIP Progress Rating: Inactive

Most Recent Activity/Results: This FIP is marked inactive because of two consecutive missed progress report updates.

Mexico Yucatan Peninsula blue crab

FIP Implementer: PESMAR/CeDePesca/Ponchartrain Blue Crab/Mayaland Seafood

FIP Progress Rating: D

Most Recent Activity/Results: In September 2020, the FIP reported that analysis of the data collected by the Biological Monitoring Program demonstrated that more than 99 percent of the blue crab received complies with the minimum legal size and that less than 2 percent of the catch is received dead and needs to be discarded. In addition, 14 species have been identified as species associated to the blue crab fishery, and a Productivity and Susceptibility Analysis for each was completed. Results show that the fishery poses a low risk to associated species. The D FIP Progress rating shown above does not yet reflect these updates. 

Mexico Gulf of California swimming crab

FIP Implementer: Alimentos del Mar de Norte America/Ocean Technology

FIP Progress Rating: Inactive

Most Recent Activity/Results: This FIP is now marked inactive because of two consecutive missed progress report updates.

Mexico Western Baja California Sur swimming crab 

FIP Implementer: Alimentos del Mar de Norte America/Ocean Technology

FIP Progress Rating: Inactive

Most Recent Activity/Results: This FIP is now marked inactive because of two consecutive missed progress report updates.

Mexico Puerto Peñasco & Puerto Lobos swimming crab

FIP Implementer: Intercultural Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans (CEDO)

FIP Progress Rating: C

Most Recent Activity/Results: In June 2020, the FIP reported development of a formal petition establishing the Crab Fishery Advisory Committee for the Sonora and Sinaloa states; regional stakeholders have been invited to sign the petition.                                                            

Mexico Baja California Sur yellowleg and blue shrimp

FIP Implementer: Northern Chef

FIP Progress Rating: Inactive

Most Recent Activity/Results: This FIP is now marked inactive because of two consecutive missed progress report updates.

Mexican Pacific shrimp

FIP Implementer: Meridian/Ocean Garden/Promarmex

FIP Progress Rating: Completed

Most Recent Activity/Results: This FIP is currently marked as “completed” on FisheryProgress.org, due to the ongoing MSC Full Assessment of the fishery.

Mexico Sinaloa artisanal blue shrimp

FIP Implementer: Del Pacifico

FIP Progress Rating: A

Most Recent Activity/Results: In February 2020, Del Pacifico Seafood staff and INAPESCA researchers met to discuss establishment of a sampling methodology to collect fishery-independent data during the closed season to support evaluation of stock status, as well as collection of catch composition data to evaluate fishery impacts on associated species.

Mexico Gulf of California small-scale blue shrimp

FIP Implementer: Eastern Fish/Meridian/Ocean Garden

FIP Progress Rating: B

Most Recent Activity/Results: Stock assessment reports shared by INAPESCA during the industrial fishery MSC Full Assessment process indicate that the blue shrimp stock status is good, allowing an increase in a number of the stock status related performance indicators in this FIP, because the fishery targets the same stock. In addition, the legal verification system for final product batches entering the FIP participant supply chains was developed and tested during the 2019-2020 season. 

Mexico Yucatan red and black grouper

FIP Implementer: CeDePesca

FIP Progress Rating: A 

Most Recent Activity/Results: The mid-FIP audit report (March 2020) stated that, though the "FIP’s actions and tasks were carried out effectively and culminated in many of the cases, these achievements, in many cases, had no effect reflected in the improvement of the qualification of the corresponding MSC indicator. Therefore, it is suggested that FIP partners identify key areas, actions, and specific tasks that directly impact in the improvement of the indicators rating, with emphasis on those that don’t have a higher score than 60..."

3. Information on overarching sustainability issues

Upper Gulf of California Regulatory Program

On September 24, 2020, the Mexican government published a new regulatory program for the Upper Gulf of California: an “Agreement that regulates gear, systems, methods, techniques and schedules for carrying out fishing activities with smaller and larger vessels in Mexican Marine Zones in the Northern Gulf of California and establishes landing sites, as well as the use of monitoring systems for such vessels.” This new regulatory program is extremely comprehensive and implements almost all of the items advised by the US government in April 2019, and even goes further in many instances. Some of the key components of the regulation are:

  1. A complete ban on gillnets in the Northwestern Gulf of California, whether fished activity or passively. The ban on gillnets includes a ban on manufacture, possession, and transportation within 10 km of the gillnet prohibition zone, whether on land or at sea, which includes adjacent communities such as San Felipe and Golfo de Santa Clara. All existing gillnets must be delivered to a CONAPESCA office within 60 days. This regulation eliminates the previous exemptions for the curvina and sierra fisheries. The only exemption remaining is for the Cucupá indigenous tribe in the Colorado River delta. This ban is effective immediately for all fisheries except for curvina and sierra, for which the ban will be implemented on January 1, 2021.
  2. The only fishing gear allowed to be used in the gillnet prohibition zone are shrimp trawls and marine finfish trawls, suripera nets, hook line, longline, traps, and free or semi-autonomous diving with hose and compressor ("hooka"). Testing of additional alternative gear is underway.
  3. A prohibition on nighttime fishing activity and transit within or through the gillnet prohibition zone, which for commercial fishermen is defined as between 4:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. Exemptions to the transit prohibition may be granted through written permission for the purposes of scientific research activities, lost gear removal, and emergencies.
  4. Artisanal fishermen must report, within 24 hours of arrival, any interaction with marine mammals or losses/misplacement of fishing gear.
  5. Artisanal vessels must have a tamper-proof monitoring system installed and functioning. Industrial vessels must have a tamper-proof video monitoring system installed and operating.
  6. Artisanal vessels will be inspected, without exception, at the time of departure and arrival by personnel of the Secretary of the Navy (SEMAR), National Guard, CONAPESCA, or PROFEPA. These inspections will verify that fishermen and boats are duly authorized by a specific permit and commercial fishing registry, use only authorized fishing gear, and do not have prohibited fishing gear on board. In addition, they will verify that the catch corresponds to the authorized fishery, the minimum catch size, and the authorized catch quota; that no night fishing trips are made; and that the monitoring system of each vessel is operational and has no signs of tampering or alteration. Finally, they will check that fishermen and vessels comply with other applicable regulatory provisions. Only nine sites are authorized for departure and disembarkation. This includes three sites in Golfo de Santa Clara, four sites in San Felipe, and one in the Colorado River.
  7. All transshipment of fishery products, shrimp, or other marine species and their parts, is prohibited between all vessels in the gillnet prohibition zone.
  8. The “Zero Tolerance Area,” where vaquita are believed to be most present, is officially closed to all fishing activity and transit. This Zero Tolerance Area will be monitored 24 hours a day throughout the year, using maritime, air, and satellite patrolling and surveillance, or through any other means and technology that are deemed necessary.
  9. SEMAR, CONAPESCA, and PROFEPA will continue removal of illegal, ghost, or abandoned fishing gear, including collaboration with other public and private entities. SEMARNAT will continue to monitor the population of the vaquita and its habitat.
  10. SADER, CONAPESCA, and SEMARNAT will implement within 18 months a "Special Program for the Marking of Fishing Gear and Equipment for Small Vessels," in order to clearly identify the origin of those who carry out fishing activities and improve surveillance of the gillnet prohibition zone. All authorized gillnets or gillnets used for fishing outside the gillnet prohibition zone must also be registered with the CONAPESCA Fisheries Office and marked for identification and quantification, in accordance with this gear marking system.
  11. Within 30 days, SEMAR, CONAPESCA, PROFEPA, and CONANP will develop and implement an Application Plan that will include inspection and surveillance actions to guarantee compliance; actions for the recovery, disposal, and recycling or destruction of illegal, lost, and abandoned fishing gear; and factors that allow the identification of additional conservation and enforcement measures to ensure the effective implementation of this regulation. This Application Plan will be reviewed every six months.
  12. SEMAR, SEMARNAT, and SADER will establish an Intragovernmental Group on Sustainability in the Alto Golfo de California to analyze, define, coordinate, supervise, and evaluate the actions and strategies related to compliance with the application of the Agreement and will coordinate the implementation of the Application Plan of this Agreement in the Zero Tolerance Zone and the Area of Refuge for Protection of the Vaquita Marina.

As demonstrated above, this regulation is extremely thorough and comprehensive, and, if implemented as written, would be highly effective. Unfortunately, the Government of Mexico has set the bar so high that complete fulfillment of this regulatory program is probably unattainable, given the current political and financial situation in Mexico. 

Proposed transfer of inspection and surveillance authority to SEMAR

The fourth Impacto Colectivo forum on the transfer of inspection and surveillance authority from CONAPESCA to SEMAR took place on July 8, 2020. More than 100 participants attended the forum, representing a variety of sectors: NGOs, industry, fishing cooperatives, academia and research institutions, public servants from various authorities at different levels of government, legislators, and advisers. The forum panelists included: Lieutenant René Zabadua (SEMAR), Dip. Lorenia Valles (Promoter of the initiative in question, of the MORENA Parliamentary Group), Rafael Combaluzier (Head of the National Association of Fisheries and Aquaculture Authorities ‘ANTAP’ and Secretary of Fisheries of the State of Yucatan), Walter Hubbard (CONAPESCA), and Dip. Eulalio Rios (President of the Fisheries Commission of the Chamber of Deputies). During the forum, Impacto Colectivo participants shared a summary of the past three forums and the expert/stakeholder opinions, questions, and suggestions that were shared. The panelists (government representatives) then gave their opinions and responses. Overall, the panelists were in favor of the initiative being approved and that the transfer of powers from CONAPESCA to SEMAR be carried out gradually. They believe that SEMAR has the capacity and resources to combat illegal fishing and organized crime, although they affirmed that SEMAR will not act alone, since there will continue to be inter-institutional coordination with other agencies, including at the state level. They clarified that SADER will continue to apply administrative procedures (sanctions). In August 2020, Impacto Colectivo submitted to the Deputy Fisheries Commission the recommendations on transfer of authority from CONAPESCA to SEMAR developed through the four forums. These recommendations can be found here: https://www.icpmx.org/uploads/1/1/8/1/118130934/recomendacionesicpmx.pdf

Comparative analysis of the sustainability performance of Mexican fisheries

Earlier this year, Sustainable Fisheries Partnership collaborated with two Mexican NGOs, Pronatura Noroeste and WWF Mexico, to develop, in Spanish, a comparative analysis of the performance of Mexican fisheries that have been subjected to evaluation or pre-evaluation through the international standard of the Marine Stewardship Council. The comparison of the evaluations of 33 fisheries allowed us to identify aspects in which the fisheries management system in Mexico favors sustainability, as well as those that need to be improved. Given the diversity of fisheries represented in the analysis, we consider that the results are applicable to the Mexican fishing system as a whole. One of the key findings was that Mexico has an appropriate public policy and governance system for the management of its fisheries, based on a solid legal and customary framework, with clearly defined roles and responsibilities and long-term objectives that guide fishing. Unfortunately, there are substantial difficulties around actually implementing the regulatory framework, particularly the definition and implementation of specific management objectives and compliance with regulations. In addition, there is a distinct absence of comprehensive exploitation strategies that consider stock assessments, information systems, recovery strategies, and control tools and rules. There are also significant limitations of information systems to provide sufficient information for appropriate management. This document is a good resource for the US supply chain to share with vendors in Mexico, as you ask for improvements in fishery sustainability. Download the document at https://www.pronatura-noroeste.org/SostenibilidadPesquera.

Further support needed:None at this time.    

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.

Further support needed: Promote the SR to fellow industry and invite participation, and share your supply chain knowledge with SFP. Please contact Megan Westmeyer (megan.westmeyer@sustainablefish.org).

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