Fisher associations from Ecuador and Peru and processing plants from Ecuador, Peru and Costa Rica agreed to implement the first-ever regional coordination mechanism for improving the sustainability of the Eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO) mahi-mahi fishery. COREMAHI (the Regional Committee of Mahi) developed a Code of Conduct as a first step toward addressing the lack of a regional management instrument for the fishery.

“As mahi-mahi exporters, we have been making local efforts in our countries to ensure the sustainability of this resource. This is a transboundary species, and international cooperation is necessary to improve knowledge of stock status and implement effective management measures,” said Francisco Takahashi, president of COREMAHI. “This Code of Conduct provides a coordination framework for us to contribute to regional management of this resource. We hope that national and regional fishing authorities value this initiative and reach their own international agreements on conservation management measures for mahi that will benefit thousands of families in our countries.”

The Code includes 14 commitments to improve monitoring and data collection in the fishery, promote co-management for small-scale fishers, reduce bycatch of vulnerable species and ecosystem impacts, and combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) provided technical support and coordination in developing and approving the Code. The Global Sustainable Supply Chains for Marine Commodities (GMC) project provided financial support for the project.

“These commitments represent a model for other fisheries worldwide that may share the same stock, but are not governed by an RFMO,” said Teddy Escarabay, senior program manager at SFP. “This is a way to bring those fisheries one step closer to regional management.”

Building on existing regional cooperation among mahi industry players, the Code is an example of regional coordination and calls on the governments of Costa Rica, Ecuador and Peru to develop regional management agreements for the fishery.

This first version of the Code of Conduct was developed and approved by seven fisher associations from Ecuador and Peru, which committed to implementing best practices. The participants also include processing plants from Costa Rica, Ecuador and Peru that signed purchasing commitments to support the implementation of the Code.

There is currently no regional fisheries management organization (RFMO) in charge of mahi-mahi in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, nor a management agreement between governments, despite the attempts of Ecuador and Peru to sign a binational plan for mahi-mahi. This gap, and uncertainties about the mahi-mahi stock structure and which countries are sharing the same stock, presents significant challenges to the regional mahi industry.