Sustainable Management of Lobster Fishery in the Mexican Caribbean (Sian Ka’an and Banco Chinchorro)

Mesoamerican Coral Reef

Sustainable Fisheries

OBJECTIVE: To promote fishery sustainability through collaboration, using international certification standards to assess progress.

In 2002, an artisanal lobster fishery was certified in Baja California by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and lobster fishers in six Sian Ka’an and Banco Chinchorro cooperatives began to contemplate the possibility of certifying their fisheries, too. In 2006, during the “Fisher to Fisher” encounter, the idea of lobster certification in the Caribbean was raised again. In 2007, the World Wildlife Fund in the U.S. reached out to COBI for support and consulting on the lobster certification process.

In 2009, the fishery assessment began, and the fishery was certified in July 2012 by the MSC. The MSC program certifies fisheries for five years at a time, with the possibility of re-certification after period. To maintain certification, fisheries must pass audits on a yearly basis, and must implement the auditor’s recommendations in order to pass the following year’s audit.

Since the beginning of the certification process, COBI played an unofficial leadership role, promoting and coordinating actions. In 2015, COBI took on the management of the project, and has promoted and given constant follow-up feedback about the implementation of the action plan from that year’s audit. Colegio de la Frontera Sur-Chetumal played a crucial role in monitoring fishery activities related to the certification.

In 2016, however, after analyzing audit costs (which were particularly high due to the depreciation of the Mexican peso) and realizing that the market was not rewarding high-cost certification efforts, all six cooperatives chose to drop the audit. After all, there was no immediate economic benefit from the certification.

Even though the cooperatives decided not to renew their certification, however, they committed to following the MSC’s standards and good management practices. In collaboration with the government, COBI, and Colegio de la Frontera Sur-Chetumal, multi-sector meetings are still being held to outline work plans and continue implementing activities that ensure fishery sustainability. Moreover, in 2016, lobster from the fishery was deemed a “Best Choice” by the Seafood Watch Institute of the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Meanwhile, COBI is working with purchasers committed to sustainability to solve a central problem for fishers: market access. Today, one of the six cooperatives is providing its sustainable lobster directly to three gourmet restaurants in Mexico City.

  • 6 fishery cooperatives dedicated to sustainable management of lobster fisheries
  • 2 MSC audits passed
  • 1 collective work plan that all stakeholders agreed on
  • 3 restaurants in Mexico City use sustainable lobster from the Caribbean
  • Alianza WWF-Fundación Carlos Slim
  • Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas
  • Comisión Nacional de Acuacultura y Pesca
  • Comité Sistema Producto Langosta
  • ECOSUR Colegio de la Frontera Sur, Sede Chetumal
  • Federación de Pescadores de Qunitana Roo
  • Fundación Summit
  • Iniciativa Arrecifes Saludables
  • Instituo Nacional de Acuacultura y Pesca
  • Secretaría de Desarrollo Económico – Gobierno de Quintana Roo
  • Sociedad Cooperativa de Producción Pesquera Andrés Quintana Roo
  • Sociedad Cooperativa de Producción Pesquera Banco Chinchorro
  • Sociedad Cooperativa de Producción Pesquera Cozumel
  • Sociedad Cooperativa de Producción Pesquera José María Azcorra
  • Sociedad Cooperativa de Producción Pesquera Langosteros del Caribe
  • Sociedad Cooperativa de Producción Pesquera Vigía Chico
  • TNC
  • Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
  • Universidad Marista
Natalí Goldman

This project is constantly evolving, and your support is key to making an impact on marine conservation and sustainable fishery. The following list details our current project needs. You can also donate directly to COBI by contacting our donations team: Let’s all do our part!

  • Purchasers interested in working with communities on sustainable production
  • Media interested in covering the history of Caribbean lobster fishery
  • Donations and funding for lobster fishery monitoring in the Caribbean
  • Volunteers with relevant knowledge, skills, or experience
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