A Blueprint for moving toward sustainable tropical shrimp trawl fisheries | WWF

A Blueprint for moving toward sustainable tropical shrimp trawl fisheries

Posted on 26 September 2011    
A Blueprint for moving toward sustainable tropical shrimp trawl fisheries

Background to tropical shrimp fisheries and current problems
Some 1.3 million t of tropical shrimp are caught annually throughout the world. An approximate estimate1 is that 419,000 trawlers from 65 countries catch shrimp, generating employment for around 900,000 fishers. On top of this, there are hundreds of thousands of coastal/artisanal fishers using a variety of fishing gears, including small trawls, trammel nets, bag nets, and seines. This group is responsible for catching less than 5 per cent of the total annual shrimp catch, but can have significant impacts on sustainability.

Shrimp trawling is considered one of the most unselective and damaging fishing methods in the world. Bycatch of commercial and non-commercial species may significantly outweigh catches of target species. This, along with the impacts of bottom trawls on the benthic environment, can result in significant negative impacts on marine ecosystems.

Fishing fleets have expanded at rapid rates in the last 30 years or so, with the result that the shrimp catch per unit of effort (CPUE) in most fisheries is in decline.

Fleets of different sizes and fishing methods access most tropical shrimp fisheries. This often results in conflicts between fishers from different groups. A particularly worrying sign that appears to have received little emphasis in studies to date, and which may in part be a reason for increased levels of conflict, is the growth in artisanal fisheries which often catch smaller-sized shrimp from inshore breeding and nursery areas. While much of the management attention and concern to date has been focused on the activities of larger industrial shrimp fleets, the activities of artisanal groups are having a severe impact on both shrimp stocks and the economics of offshore vessels. The focus on managing larger vessels in the absence of similar management efforts for inshore fisheries is a significant shortcoming.

In many countries, governments focus on food security and the political risks of limiting access on the one hand, and long-term environmental, economic, and social sustainability issues on the other. Short-term objectives have typically been chosen, with a reluctance to control access to the shrimp resource and to adapt management initiatives that focus on limiting bycatch. Markets have consequently developed for bycatch species, which may include food for coastal populations and, in some cases, inputs to fishmeal used as feed in the aquaculture sector. As this report shows, short-term focus is ill founded and contradicts the rationale for supporting long-term sustainability of the resource in the interests of food security and benefits to coastal communities.

Positive developments
There are a few limited examples of what can be considered well-managed tropical shrimp trawl (TST) fisheries. The most widely cited examples of best practice come from Australia, where such fisheries are managed relatively well and many best practice lessons can be drawn. TST fisheries in French Guiana are also well managed. Other examples of improved practices in TST fishery management and stakeholder interaction can also be drawn from positive initiatives in the US, Madagascar, Mexico, Suriname, and Mozambique. Positive developments in these countries focus on effort control, bycatch reduction, and in some cases the ecosystem approach to fisheries management (EAFM); however there remain significant problems and room for improvements in these fisheries. Positive developments have also been taking place with regards to the establishment of sector partnerships (e.g., between government and the private sector, between NGOs and the private sector, and between links in the supply chain) which are greatly assisting with identifying and putting into place improved practices for greater sustainability.

The purpose and methodology of this report
This report seeks to (1) identify and understand the critical problems found in tropical shrimp trawl fisheries and their causes, and (2) create, based on examples of best practice and potential solutions, a “blueprint” which can support a transition of TST fisheries to more sustainable practices.

The report follows on from a workshop convened in July 2008 by WWF in Darwin, Australia, which brought together both external experts and WWF staff to “brainstorm” sustainability issues in global TST fisheries and identify opportunities to drive these fisheries towards substantially improved management regimes.

A blueprint for moving toward sustainable tropical shrimp trawl fisheries

The present study involved an extensive review of fishery practices adopted in tropical shrimp fisheries. It was informed by work undertaken by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), most notably Gillette (2008), and the outputs from the UNEP/GEF/FAO Reduction of Environmental Impact from Tropical Shrimp Trawling (REBYC) project. The work also draws heavily on inputs from WWF fishery officers, government officials, private sector companies, and other individuals who, through a detailed questionnaire prepared by the consultants, provided information on existing practices, management systems, and governance in 11 countries (Australia, Suriname, French Guiana, India, Indonesia, Madagascar, Mexico, Mozambique, Nigeria, the US, and Vietnam). Outputs were also elaborated through country visits to India, Indonesia, Madagascar, and Vietnam, and through a review of other available literature.

Based on the review and fishery case studies, this report provides a benchmarking of TST fisheries using the Marine Stewardship Council’s sustainability assessment framework together with an extra principle. The MSC framework assesses fisheries against performance indicators for three main principles — the status of stocks; impacts on the ecosystem; and management conditions — while the extra principle includes economic and social considerations. While prepared for TST fisheries as a whole rather than for the individual fisheries reviewed as part of this study, the benchmarking exercise suggests that very few shrimp trawl fisheries would pass an MSC assessment process based on current performance, and that significant steps need to be taken across most performance indicators in many, but not all, countries.

In reviewing the case study fisheries around the world, this report presents a wide range of detailed information, and draws a number of conclusions:

• The Coral Triangle region accounts for 44 per cent of the total tropical shrimp catch, with Indonesia and Vietnam accounting for 60 per cent of this region’s total. The Indian subcontinent accounts for 32 per cent of the total catch, with India accounting for 88 per cent of this region’s total. The Americas2 account for 16 per cent of the total catch, and West and East Africa and the Middle East account for the remaining 8 per cent.
• Industrial trawlers over 18 m in length account for a large proportion of the total catch in both Africa and the Middle East, while in the Indian subcontinent and in the Americas, semi-industrial vessels of 12–18 m dominate the catch. Total catch in the Coral Triangle region is dominated by small-scale trawlers of around 8– 12 m in length.
• Very few individual countries show downward trends in overall catch, the exceptions being Senegal, Thailand, and the US. However, the CPUE in most countries shows a decline, which in some cases is very significant. These trends are a reflection of increased numbers of boats and increased numbers of trawls used.
• Very few shrimp stocks appear to be stable. Examples of stocks harvested to optimal levels include fisheries in Australia, the US, and two stocks in Mexico (Pacific and Atlantic brown shrimp). All other stocks, including most stocks in Mexico, are experiencing strong declines.
• In fisheries with open access regimes (e.g., India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Mexico, Nigeria, and Guyana) fishing effort may need to be cut by at least 50 per cent in order to restore fisheries to sustainable levels.
• The ratio of shrimp to other species in landed catch3 weight ranges from 1:8–15 in multi-taxa fisheries (e.g., Indian subcontinent (India, Pakistan, Myanmar, and Bangladesh), Coral Triangle (Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia), Venezuela, West Africa, and the Middle East), to 1:5–7.5 in fisheries with selectivity problems but with improved bycatch performance (many countries in the Americas (Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Mexico (Pacific), and the US (penaeid trawlers)), to 1:1 in some well-managed fisheries and fisheries where bycatch is significantly reduced through effective introduction of selectivity devices (such as Australian fisheries and some others (e.g., Suriname (Atlantic seabob), Madagascar (seasonal)).
• TST fisheries can, in many cases, result in significant impacts on ecosystems in the form of bycatch of endangered, threatened, and protected species and trawling impacts on benthic environments.
• Governance arrangements in different fisheries include a range and mix of top-down centralized administration (e.g., in Thailand, Madagascar, Mozambique, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Guyana, Suriname, and Australian Commonwealth fisheries), delegated provincial and district powers.

A blueprint for moving toward sustainable tropical shrimp trawl fisheries

US and Australian states), and co-management with a range of small-scale and company-led inputs to governance. Within this range, very few fisheries show strong overall levels of governance.
• With respect to management systems, many fisheries remain largely open-access. However, various input, output, and technical controls have been used or are currently in use. Input controls include: buy-back schemes (Australia) and decommissioning (French Guiana) to reduce capacity; fishing input rights based on changes to fishing gear such as headrope length (e.g., Australia and Mexico); removal of unused licences (e.g. the US) or licences held by those infringing regulations (e.g., Indonesia); and seasonal and area restrictions (a number of countries). Output controls include: Total Allowable Catches (TACs; selected fisheries in, e.g., Indonesia, Mozambique, French Guiana, and the US); individual boat quotas (e.g., Mozambique and Madagascar); minimum landing sizes; average mean sizes (e.g., Australia); and fish bycatch restrictions. Technical measures used in some countries include: minimum mesh sizes; headrope length; and Bycatch Reduction Devices (BRDs).
• Increases in farmed shrimp production and associated global declines in shrimp prices, coupled with rising/fluctuating fuel prices and worsening catches per unit of effort, have made the financial position of many shrimp trawl vessels very precarious. Potential solutions include: branding and market benefits if fisheries can move towards or demonstrate sustainability (such as MSC certification, which some TST fisheries are presently going through); transfer of effort to other fisheries (on the assumption that these other fisheries are also not being overexploited); and altering the balance of target species, including increasing dependency on other retained species.
• Other business drivers which negatively impact on sustainability include: augmenting low crew wages through the sale of bycatch species (e.g., Nigeria, Colombia, and Indonesia), which leads to a reduction in selectivity, reduced and illegal mesh sizes, and a failure to apply BRDs and Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs); and fuel subsidies, which are applied in many countries4 and perpetuate retention of inefficient capacity in the fleet. Positive business drivers include fuel savings through gear changes that allow for increased margins to reward best practice. One example of this is skipper and crew wage premiums for catching larger-sized shrimps (Madagascar).
A blueprint for moving toward sustainable TST fisheries and recommendations to assist with implementation
The final section of this report presents a blueprint to achieve sustainable TST fisheries, focusing on four key objectives:
• Creating a management framework which ensures the setting of appropriate harvest control rules that support the sustainability of the target species and make adequate provision for safeguarding the supporting ecosystems
• Providing a system of strong compliance and facilitating industry participation in all aspects of decision- making
• Creating a monitoring and evaluation framework to assess results of blueprint implementation
• Facilitating the development of positive business drivers linked to improved fishing practices and market
A number of results are articulated under each of these objectives, with specific activities proposed to help to bring these results about. The types of indicators that could be used to demonstrate that activities have been successfully undertaken are also indicated.
To take the outputs of this work forward, the consultants recommend that fisheries administrators and other relevant stakeholders review the lessons learned and conduct a gap analysis of current performance against these lessons and the blueprint. This is likely to require additional work to compare the performance of fisheries in individual countries against the blueprint.

A blueprint for moving toward sustainable tropical shrimp trawl fisheries
The blueprint presented in this report is generic and applicable to all TST fisheries. In order for implementation to be successful, it should in all cases be reviewed by local stakeholders and amended as appropriate. This is critically important for four reasons:

1. To ensure that the blueprint adopted for any one country/fishery is specific to the needs of that country/fishery
2. To ensure that stakeholders in the country/fishery have the opportunity to participate in finalizing the blueprint, thereby generating a sense of ownership of it
3. To ensure that adaptation of the blueprint in a particular country/fishery can include the specification of a detailed and appropriate timeframe, with responsibilities assigned for all actions
4. To ensure that appropriate resources (financial and staffing) are carefully assessed and identified for all necessary improvements.

Read the full report
A Blueprint for moving toward sustainable tropical shrimp trawl fisheries
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