How Technology Is Helping to Building a Fairer and More Efficient Fishery Supply Chain in Peru
"I want to free myself from those who control the prices of our products." This is what Paco, an artisanal fisherman, told me one of the first times I spoke with him in the Pisco Cove, in southern Peru.
Every day Paco returns late after a long day at work at sea. But every time he arrives at port, he doesn't know how much he’ll receive for his valuable fish or seafood. Despite his hard work, he is often not paid as he deserves.
Fishers in this region sell in bulk to intermediaries at the market. Since the intermediaries decide the prices, focusing on quantity is one way that fishers can make sure they earn enough to sustain their families - often resorting to overfishing to make ends meet, threatening the sustainability of the ocean.
I have more than 15 years of experience in artisanal fishing as a marine biologist, and I can say that the problem of sustainability is not underwater.
The seafood supply chain is vast and opaque. Depending on the type of fishing, there can be four to five intermediaries, which divide the value among themselves along the productive chain.
Despite this complicated situation, Paco has chosen to go against the tide and seek an alternative to this unjust practice. In doing so, he is not just looking after his own interests; he is also playing an important role in fighting against ilegal fishing and inspiring the people of his community to protect the ocean.
This it´s been my drive for 15 years, first as a marine biologist and today as an impact entrepreneur: to help people like Paco defend their identity and their work – after all, it is thanks to fishers and farmers we have been able to feed the world until today.
Paco once told me: "We decided to make a living out of the sea, which is why we need to treat it with care and respect. Selling to buyers who value our product is the best way to care for our future."
Inspired by his words, with Sustainable Fisheries Trade (SFT), I seek to streamline the fish and shellfish supply chain by connecting fishers directly with restaurants, thus increasing the profits for fishers and transforming the production chain into one that generates value for all involved.
We incorporate technology to create a 2.0 artisanal fishery where fishers can be the owner of their own destiny by selling their quality products on an online platform, NEMO, bypassing traditional intermediaries.
By reducing the seafood supply chain, fishers can receive between 20 to 50 percent more profit then if they sell through the traditional sale process.
Is not an easy task, because the artisanal fishery sector hasn´t significantly changed in the last 40 years. But by training them in good handling techniques and how to follow responsible fishing practices, and by strengthening their governance, we believe that is possible to shape another kind of future for fishers and their families. We also actively work to find ways to include more women in the supply chain.
“I’ve been here long enough to see how things have changed. Now I’m interested in teaching the new generation of fishers that we can all become conservationists because, at the end of the day, we depend on the sea to survive,” Paco told me.
To date, SFT has generated positive impacts on 150 fishers in six regions of Peru. Based on our success, we started replicating this business model in Chile in 2018.
We’re also actively contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals. By including a collaborative work approach in our business model (SDG 17), which includes national and local governments, NGOs, fisher communities and private companies, SFT is contributing to the fight against poverty (SDG 1). Including women in the fishery supply chain is generating equal opportunities and helping to change fisheries around the world (SDG 5). By educating chefs in responsible sourcing and encouraging them to share this knowledge with their clients, we can mark the way to follow other consumptions patterns (SDG 12).
Finally, I imagine a world where these small actions could have a huge positive impact on the oceans (SDG 14), generating a good balance between ocean sustainability great seafood and fair wages for fishers.
“If we do not preserve [the ocean], who is going to do it? We have to do it; no is not an option,” says Paco.