Feb 14th, 2016

De-tangling the net of the FIP

Fishery improvement projects (FIPs) are increasingly terms used when discussing long term ocean sustainability. However, like much of the wider industry they seek to reform, general understanding about that these projects are and how they can benefit ocean conservation hasn’t been encouraged.

Fishery improvement projects (FIPs) are increasingly terms used when discussing long term ocean sustainability. However, like much of the wider industry they seek to reform, general understanding about that these projects are and how they can benefit ocean conservation hasn’t been encouraged.

FIPs are essentially marine conservation efforts consisting of multiple stakeholders working to address environmental challenges in a fishery. A fishery is simply just an area used for fishing in a variety of ways, for a variety of species. FIPs have grown year on year for the last decade, and have evolved organically, diversifying in type and methods of operation. However, almost all FIPs support the long term sustainable development of a fishery. It consists of long term projects, frequently aimed at achieving the Marine Stewardship Council certification (MSC). MSC is widely recognized as the leading international verification of a fishery or products long-term sustainability. This is achieved by setting and maintaining credible standards designed to ensure that seafood markets become more sustainable.

FIPs are inherently collaborative platforms that necessitate multi-stakeholder groups coming together to work towards sustainable management of a fishier. Specifically however, they must include the participation of the private sector, who then leverage their influence to incentivize positive change.

It is largely accepted that there are two different FIP models that have grown out the original FIP idea. One type is a basic FIPs, which drives change by working with lots of fisheries that are focused on a specific species (Yellowfin tuna or Bluefin tuna for example) and using the market to achieve wide reaching improvement. Comprehensive FIPs are the second type and are usually focused on a fishery achieving MSC certification.

Both types of FIPs always work with the fisheries supply chain, but approaches to this can vary. Either the FIP seeks out the market and commits buyers to purchase from sustainable fisheries (bottom up approach) or buyers identify fisheries that are need reformed to operate sustainably and utilize their purchasing leverage to incentivize change.

The theory of FIPs seems simple, but creating uniform standards for what qualifies as a successful FIP is more complex. It is accepted that both Basic and Comprehensive FIPs and the approaches towards supply chain engagement have their own strengths. Basic FIPs are normally better for raising awareness about a specific issue as they engage with multiple stakeholders in multiple fisheries, while Comprehensive FIPs are better at making progress across a range of sustainability indicators, as they are driven towards achieving MSC certification. Similarly, a top down approach to working with a fisheries supply chain can be an effective way to achieve change, but a bottom up approach can be replicated across fisheries, and encourage organization at the grassroots level.

Ultimately, variation in both the types of FIP and the approaches used means that standards for success are broad. Additionally, any quantifier for success needs to acknowledge that fisheries are often very different, based across the world, operating in environments that don’t all have equal capacity for change. However, some general standards for increased likelihood of individual FIP success have been established. This includes things such as stakeholder engagement, support on the ground for the FIP and acceptance that solutions and progress will be found over the long-term.

Ultimately, FIPs are an important platforms designed to secure the sustainability of marine resources for future generations and are part of the solution to secure marine conservation efforts. More information can be found at https://www.sustainablefish.org/fisheries-improvement or http://seafoodsustainability.org/fisheries/