Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs) Needed to Meet Sustainable Seafood Demand

The demand for sustainable seafood is burgeoning and supply, in the form of sustainability certifications and Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs), is racing to keep pace.

Recent news, including a paper published on May 1, 2015 in Science magazine, has focused on the challenges and opportunities with FIPs and reinforced the importance of and need for our on the ground improvement efforts.

The paper published in Science cites evidence of limited progress in many developing country FIPs examined, and the authors highlight the importance of transparency and accountability in monitoring FIP progress through independent verification. They also strongly recommend market access be clearly tied to achieving improvement targets. The paper concludes with a section advocating for “investments in understanding the social-ecological systems in which [FIPs] operate” in order to better ensure they support environmental, economic, and social sustainability outcomes.

The topics addressed in the paper are familiar ones to all of us committed to improving sustainable performance of global fisheries. The need for effective buyer engagement to drive meaningful change -- and on-the ground verification to ensure it -- are two examples of key principles that need to underpin effective FIPs. At O2 we take pride in getting real improvements done with fishery and industry partners in tough places, and providing assurance of those gains (or daylighting lack thereof) through transparent documentation on our FIP Tracker.

Those familiar with the challenges facing global fisheries, especially in developing world countries, understand the time and hard work that is required to make incremental improvements toward the ultimate goal of meeting international best practice standards. Attention to designing and meeting realistic and measurable time bound improvement milestones will help ensure that our investments pay real dividends to improved resource sustainability and increased seafood supply. This work also must recognize that fundamental changes in management system capacity and local economic and social conditions are often required to create the conditions for meaningful and durable fishery sustainability gains.

The FIP landscape is in its infancy and will take time to fully develop, gain traction, and consistently produce results. By testing and demonstrating effective FIP models, sharing examples of what’s worked and what hasn’t worked with our colleagues and partners, critically evaluating and improving our approaches over time, and making the progress of our efforts publically available and subject to verification, we can contribute real solutions toward ensuring a long-term, sustainable food supply.