Artisanal Fishermen Given Exclusive Fishing Zones in Chile to Help Rebuild Fisheries

chilean fishermen photo

photo: Vera & Jean-Christophe via flickr

Overfishing is (unfortunately) a perennial TreeHugger topic, but here's a new take on how to prevent it: As Physorg reports, Chile has designated exclusive fishing zones for small-scale 'artisanal' fishermen, excluding industrial fishing fleets and giving the big guys there own exclusive areas. A new study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences explains how that arrangement has played out and help restore fish stocks. But first, some history: The scientists say that as Chile moved to democracy after 17 years of dictator-rule there was a general acknowledgement that fisheries were in trouble. The new beginning allowed the nation to try out new methods of fisheries management.

Which is where artisanal fishing comes in. Once the exclusive zones separating the differing scales of commercial fishing were established, scientists worked with the small-scale fishermen to rebuild the fishery through voluntary agreements on management. Because the big boats were eliminated, pressure was reduced on fish. It was a cooperative effort to bring about a shared vision where fish are abundant.

Sweeping Changes Have to Occur at the Right Political Moment
Report co-author Professor Terry Hughes, says the lessons learned in Chile can be applied more broadly. Hughes says,

You need a shared recognition that something has to be done, you need a good understanding of the marine ecosystem and how to regenerate it, you need a strong rapport between scientists and fishers, and you need a political moment when sweeping changes can be brought in. If you have all those things, there is a good chance you can avoid the marine 'tragedy of the commons' which has been a feature of fisheries around the world in the past half century.

You probably also need actual enforcement when excluded fishing vessels intrude into zones where they shouldn't be, another plague of global fisheries management. If nations turn a blind eye to poaching, the best laid plans get torn apart.

Is 'Artisanal' Fishing a Better Descriptor Than 'Sustainable Seafood'?
On to those quote marks around 'artisanal' and the consumer side of things. Though artisanal has been a modifier for all sorts of products crafted with a bit more loving care, at a slower pace, and with a certain heritage caché for some time. Perhaps the artisanal rebranding of small-scale fishing can help further the drive towards more (if not all) seafood being caught at ecologically sustainable scales. Not to mention it would give a nod to the effort and hard work put in by these fishermen, elevating the work a notch. Somehow it seems like artisanal is a more evocative term than sustainable--even if the two terms are admittedly not necessarily interchangeable. Would such a shit in terminology translate into more consumer adoption and care about the issue?

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More on Fishing:
Overfishing is Slowing, But Only in Areas With Good Fisheries Management
How Bad Is Overfishing & What Can We Do To Stop It?
Freshwater Fish Much Larger and Plentiful Before Overfishing Took Its Toll
Thailand Attempts to Solve Overfishing by Dumping Tanks, Trains and Trucks Into Sea (Video)

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