Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs) are the sustainable seafood movement’s primary tool for incentivizing fisheries improvement, and they have yielded notable progress over the past twenty years.
By design, FIPs were created to drive improvement of fisheries’ environmental performance, primarily in industrial fisheries in developed countries, without explicit regard for their social or financial performance.
Despite the commercial success of the FIP model, evidence suggests that it can unevenly distribute the costs and benefits of improvement; in many cases fishers are forced to pay the majority of the costs of improvement but receive few, if any, benefits to cover those additional costs. This unforeseen social impact contradicts current definitions of seafood sustainability which have evolved over the past 20 years to include fisher livelihoods.
Beginning in 2018 we teamed with Conservation International, SmartFish AC and Wilderness Markets to explore triple impact FIPs — the explicit integration of assessment and improvement of fisheries’ social and financial performance in addition to environmental performance. Collectively, we’re proposing a revision of the FIP model, in order to evaluate, track and incentivize improvement of fisheries’ social and financial performance along with environmental performance.
We have been piloting this new model successfully in Mexico, Costa Rica, and beyond, and are now sharing how this approach works and how it can lead to higher value for fishers and stronger seafood supply chains.