Ecosystem Management Plan in Sinaloa, Mexico
Learn how a fisheries manager used FISHE in Sinaloa, Mexico
Aristoteles Stavrinaky, a fisheries specialist, utilized the Framework for Integrated Stock and Habitat Evaluation (FISHE) Tool to build an ecosystem management plan for a multispecies lagoon fishery on the Gulf of California in Sinaloa, Mexico. Working alongside the fishers, government agencies, community groups, and NGOs, Aristo was able to use FISHE to guide the complex process. FISHE provided a step-by-step framework to work toward the shared goal of establishing an ecosystem management plan for the lagoon system.
FISHE is the perfect tool for a fisheries management plan because it guides you step by step through the full process.
Aristoteles Stavrinaky: "I am a fisheries specialist with extensive experience working on fisheries management projects, especially in Latin America. I’m originally from Venezuela but have been working with fisheries in Latin America for over a decade. I started out working with the fishers of Sistema Lagunar Altata-Ensenada del Pabellón, Sinaloa over eight years ago as a fisheries coordinator for EDF Mexico and have been involved ever since. My experience in this fishery led me to use FISHE for the development of their ecosystem management plan."
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El Sistema Lagunar Altata-Ensenada del Pabellón is a coastal lagoon in Sinaloa, Mexico, along the southeast Gulf of California. The lagoon covers more than 22,000 hectares and is home to seven small-scale fishing communities. A true multi-species fishery, fishers target a wide variety of species including shrimp, shellfish, crabs, and finfish. Mangroves line much of the lagoon system, which is also home to some shrimp and oyster aquaculture.
Each of the seven fishing communities has several cooperatives, as well as many fishers operating independently. All operations are small-scale, however, with over 2,300 fishers interacting, in aggregate the total catch is significant. In the past, lack of regulations has led to the overexploitation of some lagoon resources. Beginning in 2015, the Mexican fisheries agency INAPESCA (Instituto Nacional de Acuacultura y Pesca) began working with local communities and other stakeholders, such as EDF, to develop an ecosystem management plan for Altata-Ensenada del Pabellón.
Aristoteles: "FISHE provided an awesome framework that helped take us step by step to the creation of the ecosystem management plan. INAPESCA knew they wanted to create a plan, but actually guiding a diverse group of stakeholders to that goal, especially in a data-poor, multi-species fishery is challenging. We had some catch and effort data and other pieces of useful information, so the question was how do we use that information in a systematic way and move forward from there? The tool was flexible enough that we could skip or adapt some of the steps based on information we already had. FISHE provided the framework to guide this whole process and the individual tools within FISHE helped me actually run assessments to feed into the management decisions.
Operationalizing the creation of the management plan was on EDF’s shoulders. We were bringing stakeholders to the table, bringing in collaborators and facilitators; overall it was three years of conversations, workshops and meetings before the final plan was approved by all. You have the big picture objective of the management plan, but FISHE helped make sure we didn’t get lost in the process. For me, the best part of FISHE was having a structure, having a process to follow that I knew worked and was effective."
The Framework for Integrated Stock and Habitat Evaluation (FISHE) is an eleven-step process for providing scientific guidance for the management of data-limited fisheries. Users can go through the entire process, or just some of the steps, based on where their fishery is at. There are individual tools at each step that can help run analyses for things such as stock assessments or prioritizations. In the case of Altata-Ensenada del Pabellón, the goal had been established (FISHE step 2) and some ecosystem and stock assessment information (FISHE steps 3 and 4) was already available, so Aristo started the FISHE process at step 5, initial fishery assessments. From there FISHE helped the stakeholders prioritize (FISHE step 6) which species to focus on in the management plan and create performance indicators (FISHE step 7) and preliminary harvest control rules (FISHE step 8) for the prioritized species. FISHE provides the construction blocks or structure to follow to essentially create a step by step work plan for the creation of a management plan. And it is flexible enough that it can be adapted to the context of a specific fishery.
Aristoteles: "Through the FISHE process we established harvest control rules that were incorporated into the management plan. Harvest control rules for bivalves and finfish were based on length, since that was the most feasible in terms of collecting and assessing data. Sex ratio was used as the harvest control rule for the crab fishery, and shrimp had its own management plan which was integrated into the larger ecosystem management plan.
Working with the various stakeholders through the FISHE process, we were able to convey the importance of reliable data and sound science in guiding management. As a result of the management plan, we are finally performing a stock assessment for the bivalve fisheries, which is going to tell us exactly how the stocks are doing and how our harvest control rules might be adjusted. This is a big accomplishment, as it is the first time that a proper stock assessment will be applied in this lagoon's bivalve fishery.
Another impact of the FISHE process was the creation, driven by the fishers, of a no-take zone within the lagoon. Overall, I think this process has shown that Laguna Altata-Ensenada del Pabellón can serve as a spearhead and example of climate-resilient fisheries management for all of Mexico."
The official Fishery Management Plan for Sistema Lagunar Altata-Ensenada del Pabellón was approved in 2018. Bringing together a wide array of stakeholders, including INAPESCA, fishing communities, local government, universities, and NGOs, the process was the first of its kind in Sinaloa, given its participatory approach and ecosystemic focus. As part of the management plan, a consultative committee for the lagoon system was formed. The FISHE framework helped guide the group through the participative process and laid the ground work for the establishment of this formal participatory body. The stock assessment currently underway will bring new data to the fishery. The group will be able to return to the FISHE process and adjust the harvest control rules, reference points, and management decisions based on this new information.
Aristoteles: "Now that the management plan has been established we are in the implementation phase and the first stock assessments are underway. By law the management plan has to be revised every five years, so we are moving into the second phase of revising the plan and seeing how much needs to be tweaked or changed. We’ll be using information from the stock assessment and conversations taking place in the consultative committee. I’m hoping we can introduce climate change, community resilience, adaptation, etc. into the revisions.
Some of the FISHE tools will definitely be used in this revision process and we’ll revisit certain steps of the FISHE process to see what needs to be adjusted given new information and lessons learned. For example, there is a lot of interaction in the lagoon system between aquaculture, fishing, agriculture, and tourism, and the Comprehensive Assessment of Risk to Ecosystems (CARE) Tool could help us account for this full suite of ecosystem risks in the revised management plan."
For me the best part of FISHE was having a structure, having a process to follow that I knew worked and was effective and was leading toward the goal of a management plan.
Advice from the User
Aristoteles: "Anyone that is working towards a fishery management plan can use FISHE as a framework that will guide you step by step to create the plan. When you’re working through the FISHE process you realize the need to bring all available information to the table to help set common goals. My advice is to put in the time to identify and bring to the table all of the relevant stakeholders, even the ones who might not be so obvious initially, or might not be in official statistics. From there you can have dialogues and exchange information that will help you move through the FISHE steps with the best possible information. Obviously the more inclusive the FISHE process is, the more buy-in you’ll have down the road once management decisions are being implemented.
FISHE gave me a really good structure and framework to follow but was also flexible enough to easily be adapted to the fishery. Initially, it was difficult to bring everyone together – they all have their own way of seeing things or their own agendas. Some were apprehensive of the tool. But that was the great thing about FISHE, since the process is flexible I was able to work with the group to skip or adapt parts of the process that didn’t feed their interests. So don’t be afraid to adapt FISHE to the group you’re working with and focus on aspects of the tool that the stakeholders are comfortable with."