International pressure to improve and verify the sustainability of fisheries that are used for marine ingredient production, has led to a rise in the number of Fisheries Improvement Projects (FIP) being initiated around the globe over the past decade or so, and also to the number of FIPs applying to join the MarinTrust Improver Programme (IP).
The MarinTrust IP provides recognition for marine ingredient producers sourcing from a FIP fishery, and encourages fisheries sourcing to marine ingredient producers not yet meeting the conditions for the MarinTrust Standard, to implement improvements to achieve the necessary criteria.
“In short, our robust Improver Programme together with the MarinTrust Standards provide assurances to buyers and their buyers that the raw material entering the supply chain is fully traceable from the fishery,” Dr Nicola Clark, MarinTrust Impacts Manager said.
FIPs are multi-stakeholder initiatives that aim to improve the sustainability, practices and management of fisheries.
One fishery participating in a FIP and accepted into the MarinTrust IP is the Mauritanian small pelagic fishery, which is targeted by artisanal and coastal purse seine and pelagic trawl vessels. The main species are Round Sardinella (Sardinella aurita), Cunene horse mackerel (Trachurus trecae), Flat Sardinella (S. maderensis) , Chub mackerel (S. japonicus), European Pilchard (S. pilchardus) and Atlantic Horse Mackerel (T. trachurus).
The FIP was set up as a partnership between the Mauritanian fishery authority, the Mauritanian oceanographic and fisheries research institute (IMROP), local businesses, and international fishmeal and fish oil buyers, including the Olvea Group, which was instrumental in initiating the process.
Expertise and assistance have also been received from the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP), which works with fisheries stakeholders and seafood companies to reduce the environmental and social impacts of fishing and fish farming, and to rebuild depleted fish stocks. The organisation has a strong interest in Mauritania's fisheries, which play an important role in international trade.
In 2018, at the start of the FIP, the fishery was assessed against the MarinTrust Standard, and in 2021, against the MSC Standard. Both MSC and MarinTrust Standards follow the same approaches for stock status, resource management strategy, control and monitoring, impact on protected species and the environment, and governance.
The assessments provided valuable benchmarking information to help inform a management and work plan to start the small pelagic fishery on its journey towards sustainability.
The FIP was accepted into the MarinTrust IP in October 2019 following the assessments, and progress is being monitored.
“IP applicants and stakeholders follow a structured improvement journey for the relevant fishery, which is mapped out with agreed milestones and a timeframe that must be met in order to apply for MarinTrust certification,” Clark explained.
One of the main priorities for the Mauritania small pelagic fishery FIP is to improve the collection of fisheries data by IMROP, which will enable changes in the status of the target stocks to be effectively monitored.
“The target stocks are shared with neighbouring countries including Senegal, Morocco and Gambia, which can make it difficult to manage the fishery, so we need to strengthen government and scientific collaboration with these countries,” explained independent fisheries professional Dr Jo Gascoigne, who is currently managing the FIP for Olvea.
Other measures include supporting the Mauritanian government to work towards robust management and long-term sustainability of the fishery, as well as improving the value return by refocusing the catch towards the human consumption market. Such a move will also strengthen food security. To ensure maximum value can be obtained from the resource, waste products from processing will be directed to the FMFO market.
The social component of the FIP is part of the Fishery Progress requirements. It is also very important because the fishery provides jobs and livelihoods for many local people, both at sea and on land. Vessels are to be encouraged to sign a Fishery Progress social charter in 2022 (Fisheryprogress.org), and the fishery will be subject to an independent social audit, which will verify that seafarers’ rights are not compromised.
Hassan Doukkouk, raw material purchaser at Olvea, explained that his company has a subsidiary factory in Mauritania to collect, analyse and export feed grade fish oils to the headquarters and refinery in France.
“The fishmeal and fish oil industry is only a decade or so old in Mauritania and many different nationalities have established factories there and brought in foreign vessels to catch the fish. As a result, the pressure on the stocks has increased considerably, leading to overexploitation. The government has now acknowledged that the situation cannot continue, that something has to be done, and is introducing management measures to tackle the issue and police the fishery, but solving it is not an easy task,” Doukkouk said.
“At its peak, between 2018-2020, with vessels fishing hard, there were annual landings of more than 1 million tonnes of small pelagic fish. 80% of this was turned into marine ingredients for animal feed, with the majority of fishmeal destined for China and Vietnam, and the fish oil for Europe,” he said.
Mauritania is now looking to Morocco as an example of good practice, where the fish value chain extends from canned and frozen fish to marine ingredients.
“Mauritania does not have a good enough infrastructure in place at present to follow suit. For example, water, electricity, banking, documentation and cool supply chains are all in urgent need of upgrading if the country is to turn the industry around. Fishing companies said they were motivated to become sustainable, but it was not a priority, so our work to introduce the FIP, with the help of SFP, was good news, and a catalyst for improvement,” Doukkouk said.
“In the long term, once improvements have been fully implemented, the fishery may submit an application for the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and / or for approval via the MarinTrust programme. Indeed, MarinTrust is not a certification programme for fisheries, its unit of certification is the fishmeal / fish oil factory, but assesses the fisheries sourcing into the marine ingredient supply chains against the FAO conduct for responsible fisheries (MarinTrust also formerly recognises the MSC certification). MarinTrust certification in turn, opens the door to the global marketplace, which demands full traceability and accountability along the value chain.” Dr Nicola Clark concludes.
More information on the Mauritania FIP is available here