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Fishing for the Future ... a Fair Trade story

This is the first of a three-part blog series by IPNLF and its Member, Anova Food, telling the story of Anova’s North Buru handline fishery and its journey towards Fair Trade certification and MSC full assessment, which started in February 2019.

One-by-one tuna fisheries have been a key part of Anova Food, LLC’s sustainability journey from the company’s early beginnings, starting with the sourcing of yellowfin tuna from Indonesia’s handline fisheries in 1997. The company’s support for small-scale fisheries and sustainability was formalised in 2009 through the Fishing & Living initiative. The aim is to proactively engage in environmental and social improvements in tuna fisheries, with a special focus on small-scale fisheries. Since then, its environmental initiatives have mainly focused on activities that assist one-by-one tuna fisheries with meeting the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard through a Fishery Improvement Project (FIP), such as data collection activities, that can inform sustainable fisheries management and ensure that handline tuna fisheries are taken into account in the decision making process (e.g. port sampling, logbooks, vessel monitoring systems, vessel registration).

As the Anova-funded FIP activities grew in scale and success, it was clear that the stewardship of an independent body was needed, which is why in 2013, it helped establish the Indonesian foundation Masyarakat Dan Perikanan Indonesian (MDPI). As well as taking over those activities, MDPI also grew capacity to collaborate with a wider set of stakeholders, including the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, governmental agencies such as USAID, Indonesian and international universities, as well as local and international NGOs such as the International Pole & Line Foundation. Anova became an IPNLF Member in 2017, and has since collaborated on promoting the interests of one-by-one tuna fisheries. Crucially, IPNLF, MDPI and the Indonesian Handline and Pole-and-line Association (AP2HI) recently formed a new alliance to work together towards common goals.

The alliance has collaborated on numerous projects to improve both the environmental and social aspects of the one-by-one tuna fisheries in addition to the FIP. Indeed, it was clear to Anova from the get-go that the welfare of the fishing communities is inextricably linked to the sustainability of the resource. This understanding is very much aligned with IPNLF’s own vision; which is that tuna procurement must extend beyond environmental good practice and contribute to social and economic development at local levels. This will help establish these fisheries as part of the broader food sustainability landscape. The Foundation upholds the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework through which businesses involved in the seafood supply chain can engage with the world’s one-by-one tuna fisheries. As such, it advocates that in this age of heightened business ethics, it would be unthinkable to commit all procurement to large, industrial fleets, when supporting coastal fisheries empowers communities to take control of their resources and actually change lives.

 

Anova’s social programs started small with tailored activities such as an alternative livelihood pilot, donations to local schools and orphanages, natural disaster relief and other outreach events. However, its social impact grew tremendously as it initiated the piloting of the Fair Trade USA wild capture fisheries standards in 2013. This led to the first Fair Trade certified wild capture fishery in the world in October 2014. Along the way, the program grew from 150 to over 800 fishermen, generating over USD 280,000 in cumulative premium on top of the price paid for their catch as of December 2018. The fund generated by the Fair Trade program is used at the community level in a variety of ways that support the communities’ welfare, including children’s education, illness and bereavement, as well as donations to community centers and trainings on topics such as post-harvest handling aimed at improving catch quality and subsequently improving incomes. 

At least 30% of the fund must be used towards conservation projects such as education on endangered, threatened and protected (ETP) species, improving waste management systems and facilities, creating or enforcing a marine or terrestrial protected area, developing an environmental education program, or fisher training and data collection efforts. Through the fishermen associations, the Fair Trade program has also empowered fishermen to have a voice in policy and decision-making processes by being represented at the provincial level co-management committees. This will further help ensure that one-by-one tuna fisheries are equitably taken into account by fisheries managers.

The Fair Trade approach has proven to be very successful for the fishermen and their communities. At the same time, it contributes to meeting the increasing market awareness for ethically produced (sea)food products that are independently verified. Anova’s proactive approach to social and environmental responsibility paves the way to more tuna and non-tuna artisanal fisheries becoming Fair Trade USA certified. Moreover, IPNLF encourages other supply chain actors to go even further by aligning their efforts with other SDG targets such as education, gender equality and other socio-economic goals.

Business engagement is pivotal to achieving truly sustainable sourcing. The oceans provide livelihoods for millions of people and the impacts of sourcing decisions must be clearly understood by responsible businesses all along seafood supply chains. IPNLF, together with its partners like Anova, will continue to help influence policies and decision-making so that one-by-one tuna fisheries are recognised for the vital contribution they make to the broader sustainability goals to which we are all committed.