Building a More Sustainable Fishing Industry in Coastal Mexico


In villages along the coasts of Mexico, where families have been sustained by fishing for generations, a problem has emerged: the fish population is dwindling. Overfishing, illegal fishing, and other human impacts, including climate change, have created a shortage of fish. Communities are in turmoil as they watch their way of life disappear. Fishers, government officials, environmentalists, and members of the supply chain face a difficult question: how do we preserve and restore a fragile ecosystem without suspending a way of life that has sustained a community of people for generations?


FISHERS: They rely on fishing for their livelihood. They worry regulators and outsiders will limit their ability to make a living. They are concerned about the scarcity of fish and understand something needs to change, but want to be sure any regulations are applied sensibly and fairly. They don't want to be collectively punished for the actions of those who are fishing illegally. They are seeking long-term economic stability and hope to limit short-term loss.

SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGERS: As the buyers, sellers, and distributors, they have a deep interest and powerful role in determining the fate of the industry. If they are going to be held to a higher standard, they want assurances that their competition is held accountable as well. Margins are tight in the fishing industry, and while they are interested in creating better management regimes, they are wary of potential costs involved in doing so.

ENVIRONMENTALISTS AND NGOs: Representatives from various nonprofit organizations, national organizations such as COBI, COMEPESCA, Niparajá, Causa Natura and others, and international organizations such as Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, Marine Stewardship Council, The Nature Conservancy, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the World Wildlife Fund are advocating for various mechanisms to maintain the viability of Mexican fisheries and the communities that depend on them for their livelihood. They have proposed a variety of sustainability schemes, from fishery and aquaculture improvement projects, to quota schemes, to shortening the supply chain. They seek to create a regenerative, thriving marine environment that can support the livelihood of the fishers.

GOVERNMENT/REGULATORS: They are trying to balance the needs and desires of their constituents, and the economic and environmental health of their communities. The immediate social and economic pressures of an emerging economy are often at odds with the long-term goals of fisheries management, and each administration walks the line between managing short-term demands and long-term strategies.

SCIENTISTS AND ACADEMICS: They bring important data and research to the process and can help chart effective solutions.

The Dialogue Process

Although there were previously many individual groups in the region endeavoring to address the problem, they didn't necessarily share objectives and activities. With support from the Walton Family Foundation, The Champlain College Center for Mediation & Dialogue helped to found and manage Impacto Colectivo para la Pesca y Acuacultura Mexicanas (ICPMX).  ICPMX convenes key stakeholders—fishers, NGOs, government officials, and scientists—to align goals and develop a shared blueprint for the future. 


The group has had several successes, including the publication and dissemination of a ten-point policy agenda which has brought focus and alignment to the effort. Trust, collaboration, and new channels of communication have formed. Working groups are addressing each of the ten priorities, and are gaining significant ground.

Additionally, the group has developed a responsible sourcing agreement for purchasers and distributors modeled on similar efforts in Great Britain and Hong Kong.  The aim of the agreement is to reduce the introduccion of Illegal underreported and unregulated (IUU) seafood into the market.

The group is also developing an intersecretarial panel to address social development concerns in coastal communities as well as promoting the development of a robust national traceability system.

The project is ongoing, and The Center will continue to be involved with the ICPMX process and help guide the dialogue as these communities implement solutions for the future.