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Alexander Ford Joseph Zelasney Policy, Economics and Institutions Branch FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department Rome, Italy

Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs) are multistakeholder partnerships designed to encourage value chain actors to improve fisheries sustainabiliy using market incentives. Initially applied to large-scale fisheries, for the past ten years the FIP model has also been applied in other contexts, including small-scale fisheries. FIPs facilitate coordination between relevant value chain actors and promote multistakeholder dialogue. However, FIPs have been criticized for not engaging governments and small- scale fishery actors or ensuring the fair distribution of benefits for fishing communities. This case study provides a historical overview of FIPs and considers their strenghts and weaknesses as a mechanism to operationalize the recommendations laid out in Chapter 7 of the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication, particularly paragraphs 7.1 and 7.8, which aim to ensure that post-harvest actors are included in decision-making processes and to ensure that effective fisheries management systems are implemented to prevent market-driven overexploitation of the natural resource and those dependent on it, respectively. FIPs have the potential to drive collaborative management in small- scale fisheries, but to do so effectively greater inclusion of fishing communities and government authorities is needed.

Keywords: Fishery Improvement Project, multistakeholder engagement, private governance, certification and ecolabeling schemes.

Improving the environmental sustainability of seafood production using market-based approaches has been a focus of the sustainable seafood movement since the 1990s. The effect has been an increase in the application of certification and ecolabeling schemes. One model in the market-based approach tool kit is the Fishery Improvement Project (FIP), defined by the Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions (CASS)1 as "a multistakeholder effort to address environmental challenges in a fishery utiliz[ing] the power of the private sector to incentivize positive changes toward sustainability in the fishery and seek[ing] to make these changes endure through policy change" (CASS, 2012), and also by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as "a collaboration between relevant stakeholders to influence policies and management practices and to improve the sustainability of fishing operations" (GEF, 2019).

The first FIPs were established in the early 2000s to engage industrial supply chain actors as partners in the management of the fisheries from which they sourced (Cannon et al., 2018). The FIPs were launched in fisheries of high commercial value globally, such as Baltic Sea cod and Russian pollack, with large volumes being traded through international value chains, to ensure long-term supply by improving fisheries management and environmental performance (Table 9.1).

TABLE 9.1 Amount of seafood in FIPs 2015/2019, by tonnage and by percentage of total recorded marine catch

 20152019Commodity categoryLandings(in thousand tonnes)% of Global LandingsLandings(in thousand tonnes)% of Global LandingsCrab, lobster, crustaceans1576.22017.9Mollusks00261.1Major tuna species*111522.9155033.5Miscellaneous fish290.11270.3Salmon and diadromous fish101141.6Shrimp2075.937810.6Small pelagics339717.3423521.3Snapper/Grouper0040Squid/octopus2274.93718Other tuna, bonitos, billfish1013.82588.8Whitefish8468.63323.4Total60897.7749610.4

* Major species include albacore, bigeye, bluefin, little tunny, skipjack and yellowfin.

Note: Landings exclude those associated with Stage 0, Stage 1 and Stage 6 FIPs (see Appendix 1 for FIP stages). In instances where there was overlap between reported FIP landings and Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified landings (in the case of Stage 6 FIPs), landed tonnage was counted towards MSC landings (CEA, 2020).

Demand for sustainable seafood has grown markedly in the past 20 years. This demand has been driven in large part by major global seafood value chain actors, who have integrated procurement of certified sustainable seafood into their sourcing policies. Although seafood from FIPs is not certified, most FIPs use the MSC's standard (Box 9.1) as their framework for improvement. Subsequently, FIPs have come to be seen as a viable sourcing option for sustainable seafood among major buyers.

Over the past decade, the FIP approach has been also applied to small-scale fisheries. Globally, out of the 155 active and completed FIPs (Figure 9.1), 31 are small-scale;2 of these, 4 are in Very Highly Developed countries, 15 are in Highly Developed countries, 11 are in Medium Developed countries, and 1 is in a Low Developed country, according to the UNDP Human Development Index (Sustainable Fisheries UW, 2019; UNDP, 2018; Fishery Progress, 2019). Asia and Latin America have the largest concentration of FIPs, followed by North America.

BOX 9.1 The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and FIPs Since the MSC’s foundation in 1996, the organization has managed to create and maintain a market for “sustainable fish” sourced from major fisheries around the world. However, it has struggled to find commercial success with small-scale fisheries (Ponte, 2012). Nevertheless, the MSC has been instrumental in the construction of the FIP concept working in conjunction with other CASS members to use FIPs as a vehicle towards acheiving MSC certification, including in small-scale fisheries. The aim of the MSC is to secure the sustainability of fishery resources worldwide. The MSC “Theory of Change” involves the certification of fisheries and supply chains for the benefit of consumers looking to purchase environmentally sustainable seafood. In order to be certified, fisheries must adhere to the MSC’s standards (MSC, 2019): 1. Sustainable Fish Stocks: Fishing must be carried out at a level that ensures it can continue indefinitely while also ensuring the fish population can remain productive and healthy. 2. Minimizing Environmental Impacts: Fishing activity must be managed carefully so that other species and habitats within the ecosystem remain healthy. 3. Effective Fisheries Management: MSC-certified fisheries must comply with relevant laws and be able to adapt to changing environmental circumstances.

FIPs have been criticized for not providing long-term strategic fisheries governance, exacerbated by incidents of "greenwashing" 3, and not providing for greater government, fisher and fishworker engagement in their planning and management, therefore undermining any positive impacts they may have on value chain development (Sampson et al., 2015; Crona, Käll and Van Holt, 2019). Nevertheless, FIPs generally have proved effective in providing a platform for dialogue and strategic direction involving various stakeholders (Cannon et al., 2018; Crona, Käll and Van Holt, 2019; Travaille et al., 2019).

After a close examination of the FIP model, the case study considers how FIPs are managed and explores their alignment with paragraphs 7.1 and 7.8 of the SSF Guidelines.

This case study provides a picture of the FIP concept, exploring how and where the FIP model has been applied thus far. The first stage of the research involved a systematic review of literature publicly available, including academic, governmental and non- governmental publications. This served a dual function permitting an understanding of the FIP concept, while at the same time identifying key stakeholders to interview in the second stage of the study. This process also helped bring out areas of focus for the study, again informing the interviews in the second stage. A search for the term "Fishery Improvement Projects" using University College London's library database turns up 33 academic research papers, the oldest dating back to 2014, and five academic articles published in 2019. There are many publications originating from NGOs, with organizations party to CASS offering substantial grey literature covering their experiences in FIP implementation and management.

The second stage of the research involved conducting 11 semi-structured interviews on the FIP concept with experts who have been involved in FIPs directly. Interviews were conducted using an interview guide, which was frequently adapted depending on the identity of the interviewees and where their professional expertise lay (Appendix 2 for a copy of the guide). The range of people selected included representatives from industry, governmental and intergovernmental agencies, research/academia, and NGO representatives. Potential interviewees were sourced from the literature review and organisations identified on the CASS website. In addition, a snowballing approach was applied by tapping into professional networks, with many of the respondents recommending other individuals for interview. Again, this served a dual function in that it reinforced or corrected our understanding gained from the literature review, while also providing insights into the future direction of FIPs.

Last, the primary author attended a FIP Community of Practice workshop in Indonesia, which provided critical insights into the discussions being held among FIP proponents in Southeast Asia. Attendees included fishers; processors; NGOs; representatives from UNDP and FAO; representatives from four Southeast Asian governments; consultancy firms; and a number of other FIP proponents. The event proved important for clarifying details and acquiring additional knowledge pertaining to the unequal distribution of costs and benefits, the need for greater involvement of government and community representatives, and the need to configure the FIP model to achieve long-term, sustainability.

This section provides an overview of the FIP concept, including the differing types, management styles and reporting method used, followed by a discussion on FIP stakeholder inclusion and sustainability; FIPs and the global market place for sustainable seafood; and lastly, FIPs and the role of government.

FIP types

FIPs vary in their type, dictated by design and objectives, but there are conditional criteria set out by CASS that underpin the FIP model. First, value chain actors, which might include suppliers, retailers, food services and fishworkers, must actively participate in the FIP. Participation can take the form of financial or in kind contributions to the project. Second, the FIP's stakeholders must commit to improving the fishery (through a signed memorandum of understanding, published participant list, etc.). Third, the FIP must define the short-term scope of the project with a set of time-bound objectives. Fourth, a workplan must be made publicly available. And last, the FIP management must regularly track and report progress, including: 1) publicly reporting progress on actions and their results, with supporting documentation every six months; and 2) updating indicator scores and providing supporting evidence for score changes every 12 months (CASS, 2019).

These qualities outline the core elements of a FIP. However, due to the MSC's prevailing role in the strategic direction of FIPs, an extra layer of complexity distinguishes MSC-guided FIPs from non-MSC-guided FIPs, which are termed by CASS as Comprehensive and Basic FIPs, respectively.

  • A Comprehensive FIP must undergo an independent audit every three years against the MSC standards, and must receive an unconditional pass in order to be awarded MSC certification.4 The rationale here is that by demonstrating the market value of transitioning to MSC certification, other local stakeholders will engage in sustainability reforms in order to pursue certification and its associated benefits (Roheim and Zhang, 2018).

  • A Basic FIP is narrower in scope, focusing on improving specific environmental challenges within the fishery as opposed to the entire array of MSC performance indicators, and hence it doesn't seek MSC certification. Basic FIPs also tend to address socio-economic issues more broadly, although scoring against the MSC standards remains the de facto form of assessment. While the promise of future market benefits may not be the only or central incentive, Basic FIPs still require strong commitment from stakeholders in order to realize long-term change.

FIP management structure

According to the California Environmental Associates (CEA),5 ascertaining the management structure of a FIP -- i.e. whether it is "top-down" or "bottom-up" -- is fundamental to its analysis. In top-down FIPs, seafood value chain actors identify unsustainable fisheries, usually from which they are already sourcing, to which a FIP will be applied. This creates downward pressure through the value chain, incentivizing stakeholders to engage in sustainable management. One of the limitations of this approach is that it effectively "pushes down" the responsibility, with more powerful stakeholders in the value chain passing sustainability responsibilities down to those who are less powerful (personal communication with Blue Ventures, 27/03/19). The advantage of a top-down approach is that by sourcing from a number of fisheries, there is a competitive incentive for fisheries to follow sustainability protocols. Currently, seafood companies now manage more FIPs than any other third party implementer (CEA, 2020).

Bottom-up FIPs are usually intiaited by an NGO and aim to facilitate change where the capacity for management, enforcement and government reforms are weak. They tend to give more space than top-down FIPs to fishers, fishworkers and community representatives in their management. Such FIPs are premised on the participating stakeholders' ability to drive change through fishing practices, often in the absence of effective fisheries management regimes. The risk is that whatever gains are made by participants are undercut by non-participants, and consequently can stall and fail to deliver significant improvements (CEA, 2015).

Reporting progress

The web based Fishery Progress, managed by the American-based NGO FishChoice, is the platform designed for retailers to make sourcing decisions based on FIP reporting.6 With the support of corresponding technical and advisory committees,7 this platform provides a rating of all reviewed and subsequently endorsed FIPs, describing how far each FIP has come in achieving its objectives as well as its alignment with the MSC standards. Based on this, the FIPs are awarded a grade from A to D, A being the best (and only available to Comprehensive FIPs). A significant issue -- and perhaps one of contention for Basic FIPs -- is that despite not pursuing MSC certification, Fishery Progress still measures the progress of Basic FIPs against the MSC standards, therefore missing or misinterpreting many of the nuances captured by these FIPs' focus on socio-economic issues. As a remedy, Basic FIPs submit reports that include in-depth accounts of their objectives and their progress in achieving these, thus helping to "fill in the blanks" that the Fishery Progress rating misses. This is examined more closely in the following section.


Inclusion of post-harvest stakeholders in decision-making processes is the central tenet of paragraph 7.1 of the SSF Guidelines8 "Post-harvest" refers to all stakeholders and nodes of the supply chain the product passes through from the moment it is taken from its natural environment. Paragraph 7.1 also states that all parties should caution against social exclusion, recognizing "that there are sometimes unequal power relationships between value chain actors" which pertains to a broader call for socially sustainable practices to be enacted throughout small-scale fisheries (FAO, 2015). Social sustainability is defined as "the ability of a food value chain to endure by facilitating equitable distribution of the value created (profits, wages, consumer benefits, fiscal impact) and broader social impacts. This requires attention to the distribution of marketing margins, gender concerns, youth, poverty, vulnerable groups, community development, health and nutrition, sociocultural elements, labour welfare" (FAO, 2015). This section reviews the extent to which "social sustainability" is being integrated into the FIP model.

The discussion on whether, how and to what extent FIPs should incorporate social objectives is one that has been gaining traction among FIP proponents. The discussion includes the scope of social issues a FIP can consider, the appropriate scope of the value chain to be assessed, and whether the definition and goal of FIPs should change. Currently, the active participation of all post-harvest stakeholders is clearly spelled out in CASS's FIP guidelines and according to CEA (2020) 19 per cent of FIPs self- identify as addressing the social dimension of fisheries. However, Crona, Käll and Van Holt (2019) note that "only 7 percent of FIPs in [their] study included fishers as one of the FIP lead actors". They also suggest that fishworkers are excluded from data collection and analysis, indicating a lack of inclusion in decision-making processes. It has been found that, in line with trends and current political motivations (Barr, Bruner and Edwards, 2019; Teh et al., 2019), FIPs should provide assurances that the fishery is not associated with the most egregious human rights abuses like child and forced labour (Kittinger et al., 2017). Beyond this, however, it should be acknowledged that major global value chain players traditionally sourcing from FIPs have been reticent to implemented social improvements beyond social audits for the most egregious issues (personal communication with CEA, 13/03/19). Equally, creating more requirements against which fisheries must be assessed may unduly burden fisheries by increasing the cost and complexity of FIPs. This could be particularly onerous for fishers and fishworkers, who often bear the majority of the cost due to the aforementioned "pushing down" of responsibility. Similar questions are raised in the context of the value chain, with deliberation on whether social responsibility criteria should focus on the vessel level or extend to stakeholders at each node of the value chain. However, if the burden of responsibility becomes too onerous, this could threaten the efficiency or even the existence of the FIP concept (personal communication with Ocean Outcomes, 04/03/19).

There are some efforts of note to expand the scope of FIPs to include socially sustainable practices. First, the "Framework for Social Responsibility in the Seafood Sector" developed in 2018, is a rapid assessment scorecard based on the SSF Guidelines (Opal, 2017) and currently being piloted by various members of CASS. Designed to yield a narrative and score relating to each of the thematic chapters, and structured in terms of performance indicators in much the same way as the MSC assessments, the long- term objective of the scorecard is for the results to be published alongside the ratings currently published on the Fishery Progress website. However, participants at the FIP Community of Practice in Indonesia felt that the scorecard would present yet another technical, time-consuming barrier with no immediate benefits for fishers and fishworkers or explicit recognition of their involvement in undertaking the assessment. Furthermore, the same participants felt the scorecard's interpretation of small-scale fishery issues being assessed does not correspond with the actual challenges of small scale fishing communities in many parts of the world, and that the scorecard misinterprets or obscures problems, therefore misrepresenting the true state of the fisheries.

Second, a potential policy approach is to require retailers to publish information on social criteria as a condition of joining a FIP. In this regard, there is growing pressure for the private sector to adopt the United Nations Global Compact,9 with almost 10 000 companies globally having done so already. Traditionally, most retailers (usually located in high-value markets) have passed responsibility on to their suppliers; therefore, participating in a FIP that demands social data would essentially deprive the retailer of plausible deniability. Indeed, Teh et al. (2019) argue that this is likely to become an effective means of eliminating the most salient of human rights violations in supply chains. This argument also aligns with CEA's recognition of the need for social audits on the most egregious issues. Nevertheless, the Global Compact only requires companies to tackle "what [they] can reasonably do to address" human rights abuses, limiting accountability (UN, 2014). Teh et al. (2019) suggest that relying on human rights frameworks to protect fishers' and fishworkers' socio-economic well-being may prove to be rather a blunt instrument if national laws do not implement pathways to secure the full range of social rights.

Finally, an approach to ensure greater social autonomy would be to consider how information is collected and distributed. Participatory information collection could support social equity within the small-scale fisheries engaged in FIPs, both in terms of who is collecting the information and the type of information being collected. As Crona, Käll and Van Holt (2019) point out, "fishers are rarely reported to be involved in data collection ... which suggests they are not directly involved in conversations around new regulations". However, with regards to driving social sustainability in FIPs, it is important to collect sufficient information on "fishers' (or other market actors') behaviour, which [would inform and support] more ecosystem based management decisions".

Paragraph 7.1 of the SSF Guidelines highlights the importance of being aware of power imbalances in value chains. While it is questionable whether market-based initatives are the most approporiate mechanism for dealing with broad challenges relating to social dimensions, the involvement of fishers and fishworkers is about equitability, and, if done correctly, would be a step forward in enhancing social sustainability within FIPs and mitigating power imbalances. Indeed, involving and identifying the role of stakeholders is important for ensuring that FIPs are not unintentionally excluding stakeholders or creating power imbalances (Deighan and Jenkins, 2015).

The fair distribution of benefits

One of the obstacles to increasing the positive impacts of FIPs worldwide is ensuring that the financial benefits of FIPs are fairly distributed throughout the value chain, as is pronounced by paragraph 7.8 of the SSF Guidelines.10 This section focuses on the equitable distribution of FIP costs and benefits and prevailing barriers to their realisation. To date there is limited literature examing the costs and benefits of partaking in a FIP from the perspective of fishers and fishworkers, however the study by Tolentino-Zondervan et al. (2016) comprehensivly compares the factors small-scale fishers can consider regarding a top-down, industry-led tuna FIP and a bottom-up, NGO-led tuna FIP, both situated in the Philippines . Through interviews with fishers working in each FIP, benefits including increased income were reported, but in both FIP-types the fishers' reliance on their support networks -- a fishers' or family firm -- played a definitive role in emboldening them to participate in the FIP.

In the industry-led FIP, though the fishers were more likely to obtain satisfactory prices and be paid in a timely manner, the costs of upgrading equipment and handling training were left to the fishers. This requirement was justified by the presence of extended family networks on which individual fishers could rely. Furthermore, the results showed that fishers participating in the industry-led FIP were part-time or focused on other species aside from tuna, and the decision to undergo the strict and costly procedures for the industry-led FIP was motivated by the high probability that they would consistently be rewarded for the short amount of time spent fishing for tuna.

In contrast with these part-time, multi-species fishers, the fishers in the NGO-led FIP had spent their careers specializing in tuna fishing and had acquired their skill for catching and handling tuna over time. This enabled them to comply more easily with the product requirements of the NGO-led FIP, and therefore increasing their chance of earning a good income. Unlike the industry-led FIP training, the training sessions held by the NGO-led FIP were organized and funded completely by the NGO and the government. Furthermore, fishers in this latter category relied on fishers' associations as their support network, which helped fishers to obtain funding and subsidies from the government, thus improving their fishing activities. Tolentino-Zondervan et al. (2016) find that both FIP types can and do financially benefit participating fishers, but there are a number of specific and localized factors that influence this result, a great deal of which rests on support networks (family firms or fishers' associations, and sometimes both). To understand whether this is characteristic of all FIPs, further studies are necessary elsewhere.

The impacts of international trade

A major factor informing paragraph 7.8 is recognising and accounting for the impacts international trade can have on fisheries and those directly reliant on them. Comprehensive FIPs, and their related management, often presume that the pursuit of MSC certification will guarentee access to high-value markets, whilst keeping the fishery intact. Yet this route is risky especially for small-scale fisheries as the fishery is not likely to achieve certification due to the high costs associated or the high degree of management required. In light of these challenges it is important to appreciate the results of Cannon et al. (2018) who find that "FIPs showed a significantly higher probability of improving 'management' and reducing 'overfishing' than those fisheries without FIPs". This result suggests us that the FIP model provides a structure that can supply international demand for sustainable seafood, without the need for certification to safeguard the natural resource. If the practices implemented during the FIP are maintained, and the natural resource is not undermined, it is conceivable that stakeholders involved in the FIP will have the opportunity to benefit from international trade.

Creating the impression of sustainability

A significant concern around the proper management of FIPs are allegations of "greenwashing" as a way of sourcing seafood as cheaply as possible while still claiming sustainability (Sampson et al., 2015; CEA, 2015, CEA, 2020). FIPs have inadvertently become a form of currency for seafood companies seeking to source sustainable seafood, the incorrect assumption being that, so long as the fishery is part of a FIP, the seafood produced is sustainable. Thus FIPs are being used to meet sustainability requirements of seafood buyers in certain markets, which has the potential to undermine attempts to deliver sustainability improvements and the market's integrity. It would appear that the notion of sustainability as a pre-competitive issue is losing ground against the need to capture market share and meet buyer demands. This undermines the entire reason FIPs were designed in the first place: as a stepwise approach to improving the sustainability of the fisheries and supply markets with sustainable seafood. Instead, the demand for certified seafood is actually feeding a highly competitive market, the fallout of which involves undermining sustainability efforts.

The opportunity for "greenwashing" is perhaps perpetuated by the influence Fishery Progress exerts over the valuation of FIPs. With no third-party auditing system, national fisheries institutions or small-scale fishery actors involved in evaluation of the data presented on the site, vested interests can influence the assessment of a FIP in an overly optimistic way, thus presenting an unrealistic account of the FIP, and by extension the fishery. Such misrepresentation risks undermining the basic rights of fishers and fishworkers, which in turn poses a risk to national and international strategies for sustainable development.

Another opaque area in the value chain that risks devaluing FIPs are where importers source from both successful and unsuccessful FIPs as well as non-FIP fisheries and then distribute an aggregated product to the market without distinction, but under the pretext that it is all a FIP-sourced product. There are examples of FIPs transitioning to Comprehensive FIPs to avoid this, however, to iterate the point made above, small- scale fisheries are rarely in a position to consider such an option.

Ultimately, FIPs have the potential to fulfil many of the nuances of paragraph 7.8 of the SSF Guidelines. Tolentino-Zondervan et al. (2016) indicates that the fair distribution of benefits is possible (although further research is required), and Cannon et al. (2018) demonstrates that FIPs are beneficial for the natural resource. However the issue of creating false impressions of sustainability needs to be addressed.

Governments have the potential to influence the direction and objectives of a FIP, encouraging approaches that compliment or reinforce national and regional policies and legislation (Crona, Käll and Van Holt, 2019; Foley and Havrice, 2016). This aspect is also addressed through paragraph 7.8 of the SSF Guidelines.

Governments set and implement national fisheries policy. While governments are often not involved in FIPs, FIPs operate within existing national policy and legal frameworks. NGOs and development entities may be able to alter fishing practices that benefit a portion of the natural resource as well as the local communities reliant on it, but external forces beyond the capacity of such schemes could well undermine efforts (CEA 2015; CEA 2020). CEA (2020) and Melnychuk et al. (2017) provide evidence that a country's fisheries management capacity is closely correlated with the success of FIPs active in a given country. FIP implementers and stakeholders, particularly in less developed countries, increasingly recognize the critical role government needs to play to achieve FIP goals and the importance of multi-stakeholder efforts engaging the government.

A commonly cited obstacle to FIPs is moving past Stage 5 -- Improvements on the Water -- of the FIP process (Appendix 1), which would see FIPs contributing to lasting ecological change. It is generally agreed by FIP proponents that in order to significantly improve fisheries management and secure changes on the water, sustained policy dialogue is required between government and FIP stakeholders to either complement activities or reinforce a particular activity (Crona, Käll and Van Holt, 2019).

Currently, policy dialogue is only prevalent to FIPs applied to crab and lobster fisheries (Crona, Käll and Van Holt, 2019). For example, in the context of many Southeast Asian crab and lobster FIPs, industry and government work in close partnership in order to avert overexploitation as global demand increases. However, in the context of tuna -- an important economic resource and significant contributor to food security in many countries -- policy dialogue within FIPs is minimal, due to the fact that tuna is managed by regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs)11 and accessibility to such bodies is relatively exclusive (Crona, Käll and Van Holt, 2019). In spite of this, Travaille et al. (2019) have found that FIP effectiveness is actually higher in fisheries under the jurisdiction of an RFMO compared to those governed solely at the state or local level. This is due to the established regional-level frameworks in place supporting management activities and improvements, including data reporting systems, regular stock assessments and surveillance programs.

CEA (2020) have reported that if FIPs are going to seriously contribute to the management of commercially exploited fisheries, the model is going to have to be adopted to suit nation-wide efforts. Indeed, the next challenge for FIP proponents is to understand how the FIP model can be used as a fisheries management tool in developing countries. It must be acknowledged that whilst much international seafood is sought from fisheries in developing countries, the capacity for effective management is often lacking. The Global Marine Commodities Initiative led by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) represents an example of what national-level coordination for FIPs could look like. In partnership with SFP, a Global Environment Facility (GEF)-funded project was 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.

One potential obstacle to facilitating closer coordination between FIPs and system- wide fisheries management plans could be the long timelines associated with FIPs, estimated to take up to a decade to yield minimum levels of sustainability, and the often short timelines associated with election cycles, generally between 2 and 4 years. If FIPs are not fostered or seen as valuable by alternating political administrations, then any monetary or time investments made into a FIP could loose value (Travaille et al., 2019; Cannon et al., 2018). This challenge is particularly acute when considering the longevity of a FIP; participants at the FIP Community of Practice in Indonesia were concerned with how a fishery's management should continue after the relevant FIP had ended, since many FIPs lose their momentum in the absence of any coordinated or perpetual effort to continue sustainable practices. This phenomenon could potentially be reversed, if FIPs were more commonly seen as a tool to implement national fisheries management plans.

FIPs can help national governments ensure that fishers and fishworkers are complying with legislation and support them where capacity is otherwise lacking. On the one hand, they could support legislation by making compliance a prerequisite to entry. On the other hand, as was learned at the FIP Community of Practice workshop in Indonesia, many small-scale fishing communities do not have access to information regarding legislative requirements or changes, and as a result are penalized or excluded in certain circumstances. NGOs operating in a FIP can provide assistance in this regard, as they often have the resources and capacity to channel this information to fishing communities, helping to coordinate administrative procedures between local authorities and communities to ensure legislative compliance.

Participants at the FIP Community of Practice in Indonesia postulated that the collaborative element of FIPs could support cooperation and dialogue between governmental agencies. Lack of effective communication between agencies can result in a delay to achieve national objectives or address the needs of the most disenfranchised. By the same token, FIPs allow government agencies -- and stakeholders in general -- the opportunity to meet and build trust with fishing communities. The Republic of Ireland's Seafood Development Agency affirms this latter point, observing that its involvement in an Irish Brown Crab FIP has allowed stakeholders who traditionally do not engage in dialogue to exchange ideas, information and planning (personal communication with BIM, 24/04/19). A large part of this FIP's workplan is geared towards deepening the working relationship between science and industry to improve the management of the fishery. On the one hand, fishers are expected to provide catch data (quantities landed, areas fished, gear used, product buyers) to help improve scientific knowledge of stock status or to verify progress towards Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY). Likewise, processors who are members of the Irish Brown Crab FIP have agreed to supply data on FIP products including vessel details, quantities landed, processed quantities and where the product was sold. At the same time, the FIP aims to improve the management structure of the fishery by increasing input from fishers, processors and other industry players in the decision- making process.

FIPs are premised on a multistakeholder approach for enhancing sustainable fisheries management, with products derived from FIPs being used to fulfil sustainable seafood demand in high-value markets. FIPs are being applied to small-scale fisheries. This case study considered the strengths and weaknesses of FIPs as a mechanism to operationalize paragrapahs 7.1 and 7.8 in Chapter 7 of the SSF Guidelines. FIPs demonstrate a degree of alignment with the recommendations in the SSF Guidelines but there is still progress to be made in certain areas.

In the context of paragraph 7.1, FIPs facilitate a certain amount of coordination between relevant value chain players, promoting a multistakeholder system. However, as cited in Crona, Käll and Van Holt (2019), in only 7 percent of the FIPs studied do fishers and fishworkers play a central role in the management of the FIP.

In terms of promoting equitable international trade that benefits all stakeholders, as stipulated by paragraph 7.8, Tolentino-Zondervan et al. (2016) found that fishers benefit from being part of FIPs, although it should be noted that this study reflects results from only two FIPs in the Philippines. In terms of preserving the natural resource, Cannon et al. (2018), found that 'management' and 'overfishing' are more adequently addressed in fisheries taking part in FIPs. The biggest issue facing FIPs, in the context of paragraph 7.8, appears to be "greenwashing", which threatens to undermine incentivizing positive change and drive improvements, leading instead to potential overexploitation of the natural resource and an undervaluing of the sustainable seafood market.

Paragraph 7.8 also speaks to fisheries management systems, and it was found that FIPs can contribute towards better fisheries management systems. Travaille et al. (2019) found that FIPs performed better when the fishery is under the jurisdiction of an RFMO, suggesting that collaborative frameworks for managing a resource can be key to ensuring sustainability. Using the FIP model to bring about closer coordination between governments, fishing communities, and FIP stakeholders, has the potential to enhance system-wide management. Existing FIPs and their associated stakeholders could incentivize increased government participation by agreeing to reinforce or complement national fisheries management strategies.

Finally, one challenge not discussed here, but highly relevant to progressing FIPs is the high cost of running a FIP. Though there is a burgeoning demand in high- value markets for sustainable seafood, the majority of FIPs are currently sustained by philanthropic aid and in-kind support from industry and NGOs (CEA, 2015). This is not a sustainable strategy, and it is generally agreed by proponents of FIPs that to scale FIPs and ensure their economic value for all, markets (consumers) need to pay for the improved sustainability. Such a support dynamic could also mean that fishers and fishworkers are relying on a precarious system that might vanish if current sources of funding are stopped. Ultimately, when the financing of FIPs shifts from philanthropists and NGOs to private entities in the seafood value chain, this will signal that the costs of sustainability have been internalized.

One proposal from the interviewees that might help reduce the costs of small-scale FIPs would be to broaden their scale and scope. The economic leveraging power of an individual small-scale fishery is minimal (personal communication with SFP and Scaling Blue, 08/04/19 and 09/04/19, respectively), but if multiple FIPs were bundled or aggregated they could achieve greater economic efficiency. Furthermore, in this way the scope of their activities can be harmonized and more easily monitored. Aggregating FIPs could also help improve data collection and knowledge generation. All value chain players require data to evaluate the efficacy of their decisions and investments; moreover, data collection processes afford fishers and fishworkers the opportunity to take a more engaged role in FIP management (Crona, Käll and Van Holt, 2019). Nevertheless, literature on this topic is still minimal, so further work is encouraged to understand the finer implications of bundling FIPs.

In conclusion, FIPs have the potential to drive collaborative management in small- scale fisheries. In order for FIPs to promote sustainable fisheries management and equitable trade in small-scale fisheries, a reconsideration of the current model is required starting with greater inclusion of fishing communities and government authorities.

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Barr, R., Bruner, A. & Edwards, S. 2019. Fisheries Improvement Projects and small-scale fisheries: the need for a modified approach. Marine Policy, 105: 109--115.

Borland, M. & Bailey, M. 2019. Benchmarking data of the Fair Trade USA Capture Fisheries Standard and the Marine Stewardship Council Fisheries Standard against the Food and Agricultural Organization's Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries. Data in Brief, 24: 103850.

Bresnihan, P. 2016. Stewards of the sea: neoliberalism and the making of the environmental entrepreneur. In P. Bresnihan, ed. Transforming the Fisheries: Neoliberalism, Nature, and the Commons [online], pp. 57--90. Lincoln, USA, University of Nebraska Press. [Cited 25 August 2018]. (available at

Cannon, J., Sousa, P., Katara, I., Veiga, P., Spear, B., Beveridge, D. & Van Holt, T. 2018. Fishery Improvement Projects: performance over the past decade. Marine Policy, 97: 179--187.

CASS (Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions). 2012. Guidelines for Supporting Fishery Improvement Projects [online], p. 6. [Cited 6 September 2019]. http://solutionsforseafood. org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Alliance-FIP-Guidelines-3.7.15.pdf

CEA (California Environmental Associates). 2015. Summary findings from the Global Landscape Review of Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs). San Francisco, USA.

CEA. 2017. Progress Toward Sustainable Seafood -- By the Numbers. Seafood Metrics Report. San Francisco, USA, Packard Foundation.

CEA. 2020. Global Landscape Review of Fishery Improvement Projects. San Francisco, USA.

Coulthard, S., Johnson, D. & McGregor, J. 2011. Poverty, sustainability and human wellbeing: a social wellbeing approach to the global fisheries crisis. Global Environmental Change, 21(2): 453--463.

Crona, B., Käll, S. & Van Holt, T. 2019. Fishery Improvement Projects as a governance tool for fisheries sustainability: a global comparative analysis. PLOS ONE, 14(10): e0223054.

FAO. 2015. Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication. Rome.

Fishery Progress. 2019. Fishery Progress [online]. [Cited 6 September 2019]. https:// FisheryProgress/

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Process for FIPs

StageActivity0 – FIP IdentificationIdentification of a fishery that may benefit from a Fishery Improvement ProjectSupply chain analysis conducted to understand who else is involved in the fishery and what market leverage exists1 – FIP DevelopmentAssessment of the fishery’s environmental performanceScoping document completed by a consultantStakeholder mapping and engagement process2 – FIP LaunchConfirmation of project participantsParticipant meetingDevelopment of the workplan- Objectives- List of activities- Delegation of responsibilities- Timeline and milestones committed- Metrics and key performance indicators- Associated budgetWorkplan made public3 – FIP ImplementationImplementing activities in the workplanTracking and reporting on progressCourse correcting if needed4 – Improvements in Fishing Practices or ManagementImprovements in policy or management or modifications in fishing practicesIncreases in scores for MSC performance indicators focused on management or information5 – Improvements on the WaterIncreases in scores for MSC performance indicators focused on outcomesVerifiable change on the water6–MSCCertification(for Comprehensive FIPs only)Validation of the improvements in the fishery through the full MSC assessment process; must be carried out by an accredited certification body

Source: CASS website; for a more detailed version, Alliance-FIP-Guidelines-3.7.15.pdf.

Interview guide for FIP interviews What is your experience with FIP and/or other multistakeholder fisheries management schemes?

What aspects of the FIP approach do you think set it apart from other management approaches?

Would you agree that the FIP approach is inclusive of all post-harvest stakeholders? Why?

Is the FIP approach helping small-scale fishers and fishworkers improve their position/ standing in fishery value chains?

Do you think it will continue to grow in popularity? Why?

What do you think are the major challenges to the FIP approach? Has the FIP approach helped create strong social organization? Why?

What recommendations would you make to policymakers to increase the benefits promised by the FIP approach?

Source: Zelasney, J., Ford, A., Westlund, L., Ward, A. and Riego Peñarubia, O. eds. 2020. Securing sustainable small-scale fisheries: Showcasing applied practices in value chains, post-harvest operations and trade. FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper No. 652. Rome, FAO.

  1. The Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions (CASS) connects leading conservation groups from North America, South America, Europe and Japan that work with businesses throughout the supply chain, from fishers and fish farmers to retailers and restaurants. The definition of FIPs has been agreed upon by CASS's members and collaborators, which include: Conservation International, the David Suzuki Foundation, Ecology Action Centre, EDF, FishChoice, Fish Wise, Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Living Oceans, Monterey Bay Aquarium, New England Aquarium, Ocean Outcomes, Sea Web, Shedd Aquarium, Smart Fish AC, Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP), Ocean Wise, World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), CeDePesca, Client Earth, Comunidad y Biodiversidad A. C. (COBI), Ecotrust, Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), Fair Trade USA, Future of Fish, Global Aquaculture Alliance, Global GAP, Good Fish Foundation, World Benchmarking Alliance, International Pole and Line Foundation (IPNLF), Marine Conservation Society United Kingdom (MCS UK), Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), National Aquarium, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Ocean Conservancy, Sea Delight Ocean Fund, Sea Pact, Seafood Legacy, the Nature Conservancy and Virginia Aquarium. 

  2. for a definition of "small-scale". 

  3. The practice of overstating the environmentally or socially conscious attributes of a firm's offering while understating the negative attributes, to the firm's benefit. Greenwashing can be explicit or implicit and can be expressed in many forms, including pictures, direct claims in text, symbols, labels, or even partnerships or relationships. These claims can be made in press releases, advertisements, on websites and even on the products themselves. 

  4. If a fishery receives a score between 80 and 100, it is awarded an unconditional pass, meaning it is under no obligation to improve aspects of its operation in order to retain its certificate. 

  5. CEA is a private consultancy firm based in San Francisco, United States of America. The organization supports the work of environmental foundations and non-profits as well as sustainability-oriented businesses, with in-depth research and analysis, programme design and evaluation, and strategic planning. 

  6. Another entity, FishSource (itself managed by SFP), has a similar database, but the information and data is collected and managed by the same group of actors who provide the ratings for Fishery Progress. 

  7. The Fishery Progress website is used to showcase all FIPs that conform to the criteria set forth by the members of CASS. FIPs are rated by an advisory committee (consisting of FishChoice, WWF, MSC, New England Seafood, CEA, Fish Wise, SFP, Netuna USA, Seafood Ninja and Anova Seafood) and a technical committee (consisting of MSC, ASC, MRAG Asia Pacific, Scaling Blue and MRAG Americas). 

  8. Paragraph 7.1 All parties should recognize the central role that the small-scale fisheries post-harvest subsector and its actors play in the value chain. All parties should ensure that postharvest actors are part of relevant decisionmaking processes, recognizing that there are sometimes unequal power relationships between value chain actors and that vulnerable and marginalized groups may require special support. 

  9. The United Nations Global Compact is a non-binding pact that encourages businesses worldwide to adopt socially responsible policies and report on their implementation. The Global Compact presents a principle-based framework for businesses, based on ten principles concerning human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption. 

  10. Paragraph 7.8 States, small-scale fisheries actors and other value chain actors should recognize that benefits from international trade should be fairly distributed. States should ensure that effective fisheries management systems are in place to prevent overexploitation driven by market demand that can threaten the sustainability of fisheries resources, food security and nutrition. Such fisheries management systems should include responsible post-harvest practices, policies and actions to enable export income to benefit small-scale fishers and others in an equitable manner throughout the value chain. 

  11. RFMOs are intergovernmental bodies that facilitate the management of fish stocks in a particular region, and generally act as the management authority for shared and migratory species (such as highly migratory tuna and billfish) and stocks that extend beyond a single national jurisdiction. 

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

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