Feature Story

A holistic approach for sustainable fisheries and a Blue Economy

April 9, 2020

A person tying a fishing net in Sierra Leone
Photo: robertonencini/Shutterstock

As consumer demand for wild caught seafood continues to grow, so do the pressures that lead to overfishing and collapses of global fisheries. To help overfished stocks recover, as well as to safeguard those that are still within sustainable harvesting limits, both the private and public sectors have important roles to play. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is currently implementing an innovative project funded by the GEF - Global Sustainable Supply Chains for Marine Commodities Project (GMC Project) - and just released a new publication "The GMC Project: Our Model and Early Results," that describes its unique approach to engage different public and private sector actors along the seafood supply chain to drive sustainability into 9 distinct fisheries in Asia and Latin America.

“As we enter the first year of the UN Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals, UNDP is working actively with multiple partners to build a sustainable Blue Economy that fosters a healthy marine environment,” said Diego Orellana, GMC International Project Coordinator. “Collective action and public private partnerships will help unlock society's potential to achieve the 2030 Agenda and safeguard the resources, services, and livelihoods that are linked to our oceans.” added Orellana.

After two years of implementation, the GMC Project has produced compelling results in the four countries in which it operates: Costa Rica, Ecuador, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

On the one hand, the project focuses on assisting national planning and fisheries authorities to facilitate multi-stakeholder dialogue spaces called Sustainable Marine Commodity Platforms to formulate policies aimed at improving the sustainability and effective management of the targeted fisheries in their corresponding large marine ecosystems

The Sustainable Marine Commodity Platforms adapt the UNDP-Green Commodities Programme methodology to the fisheries context and seek at once to promote systemic change for commodity supply chains (sustainable production and demand) while assisting state actors to apply the ecosystem approach to fisheries management. These platforms aim to produce National Action Plans or Fisheries Management Plans with active multi-stakeholder participation.

Simultaneously, the GMC project’s NGO partner, Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP), works to engage international seafood retailers and buyers to help support the critical improvements needed for the sustainability of fisheries. In short, the model harnesses market incentive tools and bottom-up public governance efforts to effectively drive sustainability to meet in the middle of fishery supply chains.

To date, the project has facilitated new fisheries policy consultation forums in Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Indonesia and has strengthened the fisheries management technical working groups in the Philippines. The GMC Project is also providing direct assistance to seven fishery improvement projects (FIPs) and indirect support to another two. Between these nine FIPs the project is contributing to improve the sustainability of an estimated 344,313 metric tons of annual seafood landings. SFP has also helped eight major global seafood retailers to adopt or improve their sustainable seafood purchasing policies, and have engaged an additional 29 international seafood supplying companies in four relevant supply chain roundtables to support fisheries improvements across the globe.

The GMC Project with the support of its partner SFP has helped secure industry financing for the sustainability of fisheries. In Ecuador, for example, the GMC Project provided seed funding to initiate the Small Pelagic FIP, and in return, the Ecuadorian private sector FIP implementers committed more than $1.5 million to implement the FIP’s five-year work plan. This FIP, which is comprised of 19 Ecuadorian fishing and fishmeal producing companies, is aiming to achieve sustainable certification from IFFO-RS, the world’s leading sustainable certifying agency for reduction fisheries.

Furthermore, the GMC Project had just received recognition by the California Environmental Associates (CEA) Consulting’s "2020 Global Landscape Review of FIPs." In the report, CEA concluded, “the Global Marine Commodities Initiative led by the UNDP represents a promising example of what national-level coordination for FIPs could look like. In partnership with SFP, the Global Environment Facility-funded project recently launched in Costa Rica, Ecuador, Indonesia, and the Philippines with the goal of establishing multi-stakeholder platforms at the national level to drive fisheries improvement.”

In addition, it describes the important role of national government agencies (fisheries and planning) and the engagement from the national industry that participates in the GMC Project, as key stakeholders to promote national policy and building capacity for management, respectively. 

This report synthetized data on FIP performance with insights from more than 250 FIP stakeholders, identifying characteristics of successful FIPs.

The report also highlights the national-level engagement by the Costa Rican Large Pelagic FIP, as an approach to follow up in the upcoming years. For a better understanding about this FIP the GMC Project just released a new publication that gathers the lessons learned from the early stages of a national FIP in Costa Rica.

In addition, the CEA Consulting report concludes that the Ecuadorian Small Pelagic FIP is a good example of a well-designed FIP, with significant government and industry buy-in, and financial commitments to enable a robust set of activities. Both FIPs are actively participating in the multi-stakeholder platforms facilitated by the GMC Project.

For the first time this report also acknowledged the important role of the GEF and UNDP as a development funder and multilateral governance institution, respectively, that are currently working with FIPs.

“As a result of the structured implementation and early findings, we strongly believe that the GMC Project is a holistic approach to achieve a Blue Economy,” said Orellana. “We are therefore very proud to put forward the GMC model for the consideration of other countries and initiatives in their efforts to promote sustainable fisheries.”

This piece was originally posted on Exposure by the Global Marine Commodities Project.

The GMC Project is an interregional initiative implemented by the Ministries and Bureaus of Fisheries, Production and Planning of Costa Rica, Ecuador, Indonesia and the Philippines, with technical support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), facilitated by the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) and funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF).