What is a Fishery Improvement Project?

Recent years have been very political for seafood. Seafood ratings (green, yellow, red) have had an impact, and seafood buyers are sensitized, particularly retailers. But avoiding buying fish from fisheries with problems is not always easy, or practical. A portion of the world’s fisheries are certified to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard, but many, many more are yellow or red.

This is where fishery improvement projects come in. (Or aquaculture or environment improvement projects, respectively FIPs, AIPs and EIPs.) Some seafood retailers preferentially procure seafood from sources that are operating these projects. Walmart and Sam’s Club announced in 2010 they will carry sustainable seafood that is third party certified or clearly taking steps toward certification (MSC or BAP, see http://corporate.walmart.com/global-responsibility/environment-sustainability/sustainable-seafood). This commitment includes fishery improvement projects that meet credibility criteria, meaning suppliers are organized and progress is being made toward stepwise improvements in the fishery or fish-farming region. A great example is the fishery improvement project for Indonesia swimming crab. Crab size was shrinking and Phillips Seafood responded with a minimum size spec that’s become industry-standard. Getting crab buyers together around the spec contributed to the formation of the National Fisheries Institute US Crab Council (http://www.apri.or.id/joomla259/; http://www.aboutseafood.com/category/overall-taxonomy/crab-council).

The Sustainability Incubator offers support services for improvement projects. We can help identify fishery improvement needs and make recommendations for the kinds of steps suppliers can realistically take. What it takes is a willingness to operate a project and to work with others to solve the kinds of fishery problems that prevent certification. We can track progress and report on progress in the format required by major buyers.

Meeting the requirements of buyers is a fact of life but improvement projects also generate more value. It comes down to keeping track of seafood sources and an eye on possibilities. Fisheries improvements don’t happen overnight. The good news is that everyone realizes this, and support is available to take small steps.

Contact us to discuss the fishery improvement needs and we’ll let you know how to build sustainability value into your seafood products.