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A Peruvian fisher holds up her catch of two mahi-mahi.
A Peruvian fisher holds up her catch of mahi-mahi

In Peru and Ecuador, A Bold New Public-Private Model to Formalize Fisheries Takes Shape

March 15, 2023
Together with USAID and nine other environmental NGOs, Por la Pesca seeks to reduce illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing by up to 30%

In early 2022, we shared the foundation’s efforts to help the artisanal jumbo flying squid fishers of Peru gain formalization through their government, so fishers like Mario Fiestas move towards international sustainability standards and gain broader access to export markets.

Together with Sociedad Peruana de Derecho Ambiental (SPDA) and the U.S.-registered nonprofit Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP), the foundation partnered with the Peruvian government to help these artisanal fleets gain institutional recognition, access fishing rights and operate in the formal economy.

In just two years (2021-2022), 84% of the 3,430 vessels that applied have been issued licenses. That's compared to 28% prior to the initiative.

“Fishing is suddenly a source of work that equals pride," Mario says.

It’s part of an ongoing effort by the foundation and its partners to build broad, inclusive coalitions to support solutions that improve ocean health. This work builds demand for sustainable seafood. It also increases incentives for fishers to use nature-friendly practices. And it supports climate-friendly ocean policy.

Now, the effort is expanding to more fisheries and countries on South America’s Pacific coast.

Collaborating to Improve the Health of Fisheries and Fishing Communities in Peru and Ecuador
Learn about the Unique Public-Private Partnership to Formalize Fisheries in Latin America.

Por la Pesca (For Fisheries) empowers local communities to formalize artisanal fishing organizations that fish for jumbo flying squid, mahi-mahi, tuna, and octopus in Peru and Ecuador.

The initiative stems from a groundbreaking public-private partnership between the Walton Family Foundation and the United States Agency for International Development. USAID is the principal U.S. agency assisting countries supporting sustainable fisheries.

SPDA’S partners in Por la Pesca include the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP), REDES -Sostenibilidad Pesquera, Pro Delphinus, the Environmental Defense Fund, Future of Fish, The Nature Conservancy Peru, World Wildlife Fund Peru and WildAid Ecuador.

A Peruvian fisher holds his catch of octopus.
A Peruvian fisher holds his catch of octopus.

Christel Scheske is an advisor to SPDA’s Marine Governance Program. She says this collaboration marks a shift from the way civil society has acted in the past.

“There have been several organizations working on this issue for a long time. They all had their niche – law, science, etcetera. The Walton Family Foundation has helped build capacity among a wide range of actors. It's a whole new level of integration supported by years of investment.”

Renu Mittal in Peru
Walton Family Foundation program officer Renu Mittal holds up her catch of cabrilla, also known as comber fish, during a recent fishing trip in Peru.

Over five years, Por la Pesca will work toward a number of major sustainability goals.

First, Por la Pesca has set a goal for 1,000 artisanal vessel owners to complete licensing and registration within five years. That will decrease IUU fishing and benefit at least 6,000 artisanal fishers. Por la Pesca seeks to achieve this by reducing barriers to formalization.

They also plan to support the capacity of at least 20 artisanal fisher associations. That will improve their bargaining power to achieve fairer deals for their catch. It will also increase their ability to work with governments to set equitable fishing norms.

“We are very proud of how far we’ve come, but there's still a lot of work to do."
Christel Scheske

Por la Pesca will also establish at least four alliances with strategic buyers to improve the ability of small-scale fishers to access to local and international markets. This will increase their profitability.

By working with the governments of Ecuador and Peru, Por la Pesca will promote science-based and participatory fisheries policies and regulations. The alliance will also collaborate with authorities to share data on the four targeted fisheries. This will increase transparency in decision-making.

Ultimately, Por la Pesca believes they will successfully reduce informality and IUU fishing by 30%.

“We are very proud of how far we’ve come, but there's still a lot of work to do,” Christel says. “In Peru, we proved that this strategy works. Now, we’ve been given the time and resources to expand. For the benefit of biodiversity and the welfare of fishers.”

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