The Beacon

CEO Note: New Science-Based Quotas Will Rebuild Chilean Fisheries

(Photo: Jeanne Menj)

Nearly one year ago, I wrote to you to announce that Chilean President Sebastián Piñera signed a monumental reform to the Chilean Fisheries Law, requiring that scientific advice guide fishing quotas for important commercial species. I’m now pleased to report back that the law is already making a difference, putting Chile on track to dramatically rebuild its fisheries, which will benefit both fishermen and ocean health.

The Chilean government recently announced the first set of science-backed quotas for 2014. Following recommendations from independent scientific committees, the government set quotas to help rebuild four critical species: common hake, jack mackerel, anchoveta, and sardines. This is an important step forward for the oceans.

While some of these fish may sound unfamiliar, they are both the largest fisheries in Chile and some of the largest fisheries in the world. Chile ranks eighth in the world in terms of the total amount of fish caught in its ocean. But populations of these four species are seriously overfished, endangering ecosystems and our ability to feed people. The common hake and jack mackerel fisheries collapsed during the last decade, and populations of anchoveta and sardines are dropping fast. These new quotas will allow these species time to recover and rebuild their populations, ultimately ensuring that these fisheries remain a plentiful source of food for the future.

Oceana spent many years campaigning for a new, science-backed quota system, and we’re pleased with these first results. Following the new system, the government reduced the quota for common hake by 55 percent, for anchoveta by 65 percent in specific regions, and for sardines by 29 percent in specific regions. The only increased quota was for jack mackerel. There are some signs that this fishery is recovering, largely due to previous quota reductions that occurred after Oceana revealed in 2010 that the quotas were systematically being set at levels greater than what was sustainable.

Chile’s first science-based quotas are a tremendous step toward rebuilding these fisheries. Oceana will continue to advocate for science-guided management in Chile and around the world. Oceana will also continue to support the scientific committees as they face pressure from the commercial fishing industry to raise quotas. 

For the oceans,
Andrew Sharpless
Chief Executive Officer


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