Del Pacifico Seafoods, based in Hermosa Beach, CA, US, holds the certification, along with its exclusive supplier MHMR International, which encompasses eight small-scale cooperatives of artisanal shrimp producers in Sinaloa, Mexico, currently participating in the FIP. In order to earn certification, the producers had to meet a series of criteria designed to promote worker empowerment, local economic development, social responsibility, and environmental stewardship. The Sinaloa fishery began the audit process for certification in September 2015 and received certification in January 2016.
The certification represents a milestone for the Sinaloa fishery on several levels. Since FTUSA began certifying fisheries in 2014, it has worked primarily with yellowfin tuna producers in Indonesia. Sinaloa has become the first wild shrimp fishery to be certified under the Fair Trade seafood. The certification is also the first of its kind in Mexico.
“SFP helped industry prepare for this important milestone, but Del Pacifico and MHMR showed true leadership in supporting the fishermen to make the improvements and plans necessary for Fair Trade certification,” said Juan Manuel Caudillo, SFP’s deputy fisheries director. “We hope this serves as a model that spreads to other shrimp fisheries in the world and other fisheries in Mexico.”
Shrimp in the northwest Pacific coast of Mexico, including the Gulf of California, is one of the most important exports for the region. It has the highest economic value of landings, averaging $260 million. It is also the highest-ranked fishery in terms of number of vessels (750 bottom trawlers and about 18,000 small-scale vessels) and number of direct jobs (37,000 direct jobs and 75,000 indirect ones). It places third in terms of volume with annual landings of approximately 40,000 tons during a season that begins in September and runs through March.
Sergio Castro, President and founder of Del Pacifico, said his company sought the certification as a way to celebrate the incredible work of the fishermen. “We noticed other processors and shrimp importers were not informing consumers and the industry of the good job these fishermen are doing: developing a unique technique and gear that is good for the environment.”
The Fair Trade program includes requirements that get more rigorous over the course of six years, requiring applicant fisheries to meet specific criteria concerning the protection of fundamental human rights, wages and contracts, working conditions, access to services, responsible fishing methods, and product traceability. The Fair Trade audit itself was conducted by a third-party certification body, SCS Global Services. Additionally, for every Fair Trade product sold, the fishermen directly earn an additional financial premium. They then vote democratically on how to use that premium to address their most pressing needs, like healthcare, housing, and education.
“In partnership with SFP, we are excited to celebrate the first Fair Trade Certified seafood in Mexico,” said Ashley Apel, the seafood program manager at FTUSA. “By purchasing seafood that is both socially ethical and responsibly harvested, consumers can have a direct, positive impact on fishing communities in Sinaloa.”
The artisanal Sinaloa shrimp fishery generates annual landings of 2 million pounds with a value of $14 million. SFP has been working with the fishery in an improvement project since 2009, collaborating with Del Pacifico. Rather than using traditional trawlers, the Sinaloa fishery employs small boats, called pangas, which burn less fuel and produce less bycatch. The boats use special hand nets that produce the lowest bycatch and fuel consumption per pound of shrimp in the world.
Fishing is conducted in 25-foot-long vessels equipped with outboard motors and an 80-foot modified cast net operated by fishermen conducting daylight trips.