Barriers to Marine Stewardship Council Certification in the Artisanal South Pacific Hake Fishery (Merluccius gayi gayi: Guichenot, 1848) in Chile

Supervisor: J. Shepherd (National Oceanography Centre, Southampton & World Wildlife Fund, Chile)
Globally, an estimated two-thirds of assessed fish stocks require rebuilding. In an effort to secure a sustainable future for the world’s fish stocks market based economic incentives have become a common tool within fisheries to both reward and encourage good practices. One of the most widely recognised market tools is the ecolabel developed by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) an independent non-profit organisation that sets a standard for sustainable fisheries. This study considers a potential project to MSC certify the artisanal sector of the South Pacific hake artisanal fishery (Merluccius gayi gayi) in Chile, which is considered overexploited and at risk of collapse. The state of the fishery has reduced fishing quotas and the artisanal sector is suffering both socially and economically as a result. Considering the artisanal sector could benefit from a market tool such as MSC certification, this study considers the social, institutional, technical, stakeholder and market barrier to certification within this fishery and suggests mechanisms to overcome these barriers. Barriers to certification were identified during the study; the exploited stock with low biomass levels and a high presence of juveniles and a lack of information about the ecosystem would prohibit the fishery from attaining the MSC certification. Additionally current management of the fishery needs to be addressed in order to carry the fishery to this required condition. Presently ineffective management of the hake stocks leads to social situation that provokes violation of existing norms in unquantified illegal fishing. Furthermore an unregulated oligopoly market both facilitating this illegal fishing renders the fishermen in a low power and low income situation where they are not able to develop or adapt. The absence of appropriate social support renders the fishermen in a weak position which intensifies the situation. The fishermen are further weakened by the fragmentation and lack of equality within the fishery. Each port and region has different realities, capabilities and social structures which creates conflict. Although MSC certification is positively viewed by most stakeholders, it is not considered important as it cannot offer market benefits to this fishery. There is no domestic market for certified products and the artisanal fishery does not export. Rather than considering tools such as certification, the fishermen are more concerned with their socio-economic situation, and other stakeholders are more concerned with recovering the stock to a basic level. It is not possible to certify the fishery at present and it is unlikely in the short term the fishery would be able to achieve this. It should also be considered if certification would be an appropriate tool in this instance. The most constructive action for the fishery at present would be a strong management and recovery plan and investment in the fishery in order to reduce inequalities and fragmented fishing ports, break down the market structure and empower the fishermen. Efforts in these areas could be carried out with a view to certify the fishery in the future.