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    Community Approach to Locally and Sustainably Sourced Fish

    by Sarah Travers 05/20/2020 05:51 PM BST

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          In Costa Rica, ConnectOcean has been working with local artisanal fishermen to offer sustainable fishing tours to tourists to supplement their income. We have been running workshops to teach the fishermen about ocean ecosystems and the importance of sustainability. We use MarViva's guide to identify fish and check for maturity lengths of species.

          When we take guests out on tours, there is a ConnectOcean guide on each boat to help facilitate the experience and keep the fishing sustainable. There has been a huge difference in the attitude of the fishermen from our very first tour in 2018 to our latest one. When we first started, the fishermen were very resistant to the idea of putting fish back, even undersized fish. The sustainability workshops we have been running with the fishermen have really helped facilitate a shift in their attitude. They now understand the reasoning behind sustainability and have seen success stories from around the world. They understand how they will benefit from a healthier ecosystem, and how fishing sustainable helps facilitate that health. 

          Next Phase:

          Our plan is to grow this project by having these artisanal fishermen trained in data collection so that every time they go out fishing, they would identify and measure every fish that they catch. The data collection project would also include dates, times, locations, fishing methods, number of hooks in the water, the amount of time spent fishing, and if the fish released sustained any injuries. All of this information would be uploaded onto ConnectOcean's GIS database where we house our other citizen science data collection methods. 

          The data collection efforts are key for 4 main reasons:

          1. Making sure that the fishermen are actually following the sustainable fishing guidelines 
          2. Analysis by scientists would give insight into the health of the ecosystem and allow us to track changes over time
          3. Can be used to make evidence-based decisions like implementing a community-managed protected area. 
          4. Allowing ConnectOcean to track the success of the program

          The GIS technology allows the data to be layered and analyzed in incredible ways. This information could be used by researchers, conservationists, policymakers, and community members. It could be used to implement and run a Sustainable Multi-use Community Managed Zone. 

          Obviously there would need to be an incentive for the local fishermen to take on this extra data collection work and to actually follow the sustainable fishing guidelines. Our idea for this is to use a virtual platform as an online fish market. Once the fishermen land a catch, they can instantly post to the market, which will be full of consumers like restaurants and local families, who would pay a premium price for a fish that they know was caught locally and sustainably. The money goes directly to the fishermen, effectively cutting out any need for flash freezing, packaging, transport, and the other carbon footprints usually associated with buying fish from a grocery store. The fish can be paid for and picked up as the fishermen return to the marina. 

          We believe that Flamingo, Guanacaste, Costa Rica is the perfect place to start this project, as ConnectOcean is already working with a group of fishermen, and we believe there is a market of local restaurants and families that would love to support these efforts by purchasing locally and sustainably sourced fish directly from the fishermen. 

          Once tested locally, this idea can be implemented in fishing communities around the world. This could be the groundwork to have local and sustainable fish markets worldwide, with an educated fishing community understanding the importance of the role they play in ecosystem and fish stock health.

          Co-authors to your solution

          Clara Abellán, Mercedes Chinchilla, ConnectOcean

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