Mahi mahi: how to benefit from a resource without depleting it



Posted on 28 November 2012  | 
• In recent years, the volume of mahi mahi caught in Peru has doubled
• New efforts seek to foster the sustainability of this fishery together with the private sector, artisanal fishermen and authorities.


Lima, November 28th. Since the late 80s, fishing of mahi mahi (Coryphaena hippurus) has rapidly increased along the Peruvian coast, given the rising demand for this product, overseas. According to the Peruvian Ministry of Production PRODUCE, in 1986, the reported catch of mahi mahi was approximately 25 thousand tons. In 2011, this number had doubled, exceeding 50 thousand tons.

The increasing demand for mahi mahi is being felt by the Peruvian sea. For Pedro Justo Fuentes, General Coordinator of the Peruvian Artisanal Fishermen Federation - FIUPAP, both the amount of available mahi mahi and the individuals’ size have reduced. “We used to catch incredible mahi mahi, so big that two men were needed just to get them into the boat. Nowadays it is rare to find big mahi mahi, most of them are medium or small size”.

If this continues, this species’ sustainability will be endangered and so thousands of families’ incomes related to its fishing and trade. All this, without even considering the effects of climate change, which is already affecting the species’ migration cycles and its distribution.

For Biologist Samuel Amorós, Coordinator of WWF Peru’s Marine program, “the core problem is the lack of scientific information regarding this species and its fishing which should be an input for the development and implementation of a legal framework, aimed at controlling and organizing this activity; to be complied by all of those involved in it, both within and beyond the sea”.

Amorós expects that next year, through a fishery improvement project, we may be able to take the first steps towards the effective re-organization of such activity.

On our way to sustainability

Last week Amorós, together with national and foreign specialists, organized a series of meetings with representatives of the main fishing industries, as well as with artisanal fishermen associations and different government sectors. The objective was sharing results of a preliminary study regarding the status of the mahi mahi fishery, aiming towards a future certification by the Marine Stewardship Council – MSC, which goal is to guarantee the sustainable use of marine resources.

According to Antonio Hervás, Fishery Development Manager at Food Certification International – FCI and author of the abovementioned study, “certification is a market tool which benefits those who perform good fishing practices. Such incentive makes the fact of being sustainable, more appealing to fishermen and companies. Moreover, it encourages crucial changes to guarantee sustainability regarding marine resources use”.

Like with any other certification, obtaining the MSC seal requires carrying out strict measures aimed at reducing the impacts related to marine resources use, such as using special hooks or other techniques to reduce bycatch of turtles and sharks, among several others. Nonetheless, according to specialists, such effort entails important benefits as well. For example, access to international markets and stability, in a context in which the global demand is increasingly shifting towards “greener” or more sustainable alternatives.
In order for mahi mahi fishing to be profitable, artisanal fishermen must venture 200 miles away from the coast in their small roofless boats, for over 15 day journeys.
© Diego Pérez / WWF Perú Enlarge
Peruvian Fishmen
© Diego Pérez / WWF Perú Enlarge

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