The stock status of six small pelagic species in Ecuador has improved significantly in the last two years, in large part through the implementation of voluntary management measures developed by the industry-led Ecuador Small Pelagics Sustainability Fishery Improvement Project (SPS-FIP). Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) has provided technical advice on the FIP since the design stage. 

When the SPS-FIP was established in October 2018, an estimated 100 percent of the six small pelagic stocks in the region were overexploited, and 50 percent were overfished (based on 2017 data). But the most recent stock assessments of the six species covered by the FIP show a reduction to 67 percent of the stocks as overexploited and none are overfished (2019 data). 

The SPS-FIP enabled voluntary management measures to reduce fishing effort that contributed directly to improved stock status and sustainability of the small pelagics fishery, including an extension of the fisheries closure season (over two periods), from a total of 61 days in 2017 to 77 days in 2018, 83 days in 2019, and 80 days in 2020. In addition, a seven-day closure at the time of the full moon each month was established. 

The success of these measures highlights the importance of furthering co-management and collaboration in countries where fisheries law enforcement is weak. The SPS-FIP has adopted as its governance system the Sustainable Marine Commodity Platform, an intersectoral decision-making platform that includes government authorities, private sector actors, fishers, processors, and scientists. 

“The Small Pelagic Sustainable Marine Commodity Platform reflects the commitment of all the supply chain actors to reach agreement to strengthen the governance of the Ecuadorian small pelagic fishery,” said Andrés Arens, Ecuador’s Vice Minister of Aquaculture and Fisheries. “This new multi-stakeholder and participatory governance model represents an important milestone for the Ecuadorian fishery sector, since it is the first time that representatives from the entire value chain of a fishery are sitting together to analyze a management plan that will contribute to seafood sustainability. Ecuador is demonstrating that structured processes that empower and promote public-private partnerships contribute to strengthening participatory governance that helps to improve fisheries and supply chain sustainability.” 

SFP and the SPS-FIP have provided support for research to improve stock assessment and evaluate the environmental impacts of the small pelagics fishery. This data is being used to develop a Small Pelagic Fishery Action and Management Plan, which is expected to further strengthen the rebuilding of small pelagic stocks in the region. 

“This FIP represents our desire to ensure a supply of fish for many future generations, and to work in an environment of respect for law and nature. This journey has been complicated and the economic environment has been challenging, with low captures in the last few years and the pandemic. Despite this, milestones have been reached and the state of the fishery has improved,” said Carlos Cacao, manager/vice president of Pesquera Polar and president of CNP’s Small Pelagic Commission. “The improvements that the FIP has generated are steps that have been taken little by little, but with the security that they are significant for the small pelagics of the country. Now we have to ensure that these achievements and improvements continue over time. This is the beginning of a promising future.” 

The SPS-FIP is led and financed by a coalition of aquaculture feed producers and fishmeal processors in Ecuador’s National Chamber of Fisheries (CNP in Spanish), with the support of the UNDP/Global Marine Commodities (GMC) project and technical assistance from Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP). The FIP’s goal is to achieve sustainability of the fishery to meet sustainable marine ingredients certification standards. The fishery is the second most important in Ecuador, with an industrial fleet of 267 vessels and an estimated annual catch of 278,000 tonnes (to produce canned fish, frozen fish, and marine ingredients), supporting 25,000 jobs. 

The latest stock assessment report is available in Spanish here.

The Global Sustainable Supply Chains for Marine Commodities (GMC) project is an interregional initiative implemented by the Ministries and Bureaus of Fisheries and Planning of Costa Rica, Ecuador, Indonesia, and the Philippines, with the technical support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), facilitated by Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP), and funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF).