Lima, Peru – In response to fishery stakeholders, the Peruvian Government issued a historic decree to enable fisher registration by cooperatives in the mahi-mahi and jumbo flying squid fisheries, two of the most globally significant artisanal fisheries in the world. This removes the barriers for more than 900 mahi-mahi and squid artisanal vessels in major fisher organizations to be able to operate legally in Peruvian waters.
“The artisanal sector has long felt neglected by the state, facing endless bureaucratic obstacles,” said Elsa Vega, president of the Peruvian Artisanal Fishing Society (Sonapescal). “The new regulation marks a historic milestone for artisanal fishing, facilitating the completion of the formalization process initiated by many boat owners seven years ago. We now urge the relevant authorities to expedite the process, and invite registered boat owners to submit their applications for final fishing permits promptly.”
The Peru mahi-mahi fishery generates more than 40 percent of world production by volume. Jumbo flying squid is the world’s largest invertebrate fishery, and Peru’s squid fishery comprises nearly half of global landings. These fisheries experienced uncontrolled fleet growth between 2000 and 2015 due to lack of fisheries research and management and political will, and instability and weak governance in the country. The fisheries were left operating under an informal economy due to inadequate and out-of-date laws.
“In 2020, Supreme Decree No. 015-2020-PRODUCE mandated the issuance of definitive fishing permits to boat owners involved in cooperative formalization,” said Piero Rojas, legal consultant at Sustainable Fisheries Partnership. “However, the procedure was not established in the legal framework. The new enacted decree, long-awaited by the fishing sector, provides a clear path to obtain the permits and conclude the formalization process.”
The resulting risks, including lost investments and potential labeling of products as illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) by importing countries, created an unprecedented alignment of the entire supply chain, from catch to retail, around closing access and granting legal fishing rights to the operating artisanal fleet.
“After nearly ten years since the initiation of this endeavor, it is evident that, when different stakeholders come together, align their perspectives, and collaborate with end markets, significant and positive transformations can occur,” continued Rojas. “This progress serves as a foundation for the establishment of sustainable management practices in artisanal fisheries.”
In contrast with the unorganized sector that started the fisher registration movement a decade ago, today processing plants are well organized under CAPECAL and the Peru Mahi Alliance, and boat owners have a national fisherfolk organization, SONAPESCAL. Some of these organizations are also members of CALAMASUR and COREMAHI, representing fishery stakeholder interests at the regional level. Amidst unprecedented political instability and the COVID-19 pandemic, Peruvian boat owners and processors successfully pushed formalization forward, keeping it a top priority of constantly changing political authorities.
“Despite the economic and institutional crises in Peru, the fishing sector has come together to formalize vessels targeting one of the country’s most significant species for human consumption,” said Alfonso Miranda, president of Calamasur. “This collaborative effort will ensure a better future for artisanal fishing and preserve the health of the hydrobiological resource. Jumbo flying squid processors demonstrate the importance of advancing sustainability and obtaining internationally recognized certifications.”
As of March 2023, fishing permits had been granted to 71% of the vessels operating under the individual rights regime (SIFORPA). In stark contrast, none of the vessels operating under the collective rights regime have been granted permits, because of legal obstructions preventing them from completing necessary procedures to obtain their fishing permits. The new government decree addresses these obstacles.
This victory and other key policy reforms over the past few years are the direct result of advocacy by in-country fishery stakeholders, supported by NGOs such as SFP and SPDA and suppliers in SFP’s Supply Chain Roundtables.
“In the Global Squid Supply Chain Roundtable, we’re excited about the new regulation,” said
Stefano Pagliai, procurement director at PanaPesca USA and chair of the Global Squid Supply Chain Roundtable. “It ensures responsible supply, product differentiation, and legality for jumbo flying squid. This achievement motivates us to support ongoing improvements for a sustainable future in this fishery.”
In 2014, pressure from Peruvian fisherfolk and processing plants, aware of the risks they were facing and seeking to ensure a continued sustainable livelihood, led the government to establish the first roundtables on the issue.
In 2016, Spanish buyers started to call upon their Peruvian counterparts and the government to address the issue. That year, the government launched a program called “Cooperativas” that enabled the formalization of the fleet via collective fishing rights.
In 2018, a new route was developed to obtain fishing permits (SIFORPA II), through which individual fishing rights were granted. However, despite the launch of these programs and positive reception by the sector, they were insufficient. The enormous bureaucratic burden was an insurmountable obstacle, and the law had hurdles that effectively blocked the process for most of the fleet. Despite frustrations, the industry and cooperatives continued their effort for formalization.
In 2020, Supreme Decree No. 015-2020-PRODUCE mandated the issuance of fishing permits to boat owners involved in cooperative formalization, though the detailed procedure was not established in the legal framework.
In 2021, with support from Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) and Sociedad peruana de Derecho Ambiental (SPDA), the Ministry of Production (PRODUCE) launched pescaformal.pe, a transparency portal providing training material and expert advice to boat owners and the ability for buyers to verify if vessels are in the process of getting fishing licenses.
In May 2023, PRODUCE enacted the detailed regulation decree for the formalization of cooperatives.