Chris has been an active contributor to the management and research of Peruvian small scale fisheries in the regions of Piura and Tumbes. With NGOs, private tourism businesses, and government programs he has worked in over 30 fishing communities on pressing governance issues such as moving fishermen to legality through the process of formalization or creating fishing cooperatives for the direct sale of product to higher end markets. Chris also contributed to the declaration of artisanal fishing by sail as Peruvian cultural heritage and to the Mar de Grau marine protected area proposal. His passion is understanding fisheries governance as a mechanism of food sovereignty and a means to achieve legal recognition for underrepresented people.
Q: How did you find your way into marine issues?
It may be too much of a cliché, but I’ve always loved the ocean; I have stored somewhere a presentation from when I was eight years old on the nesting habits of the Loggerhead sea turtle. Only when I was in Florida during the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill did I realize the human dimensions of marine ecology. While interning for a smaller NGO in Apalachicola, I saw not only the impact of the disaster on the environment, but also the damage incurred to an artisanal oyster fishery that the local economy was based upon- a fishery that is 183 years old. The experience showed me that working on social justice issues was not incompatible with the marine sciences.
Q: What have been some unexpected hurdles in working with artisanal and small scale fisheries?
I have an academic background and my family are not fishers which made it difficult to have rapport with industry actors, especially fishermen. With every community that I have worked in, I have needed to develop credibility with local actors about my knowledge of their fisheries, the placement of the community in political, economic, and environmental processes, and that my presence was meant to serve their needs and interests. I believe this is vital to any intervention or project operating at a local level because change is catalyzed by community investment.
Q: Interest in seafood sustainability and traceability has grown in recent years. Why do you think that is?
There has been an increasing drive for greater data when it comes to fisheries and their supply chains. Whether or not this is actually necessary in all contexts remains uncertain. Increasing data quality and availability has been couched within the rhetoric of seafood sustainability, with the mechanism being improving traceability. From what I have seen within Peru and from speaking with colleagues in other geographies, many regulatory systems are not ready for traceability, and are being pressured to conform to this demand placed upon them by seafood consumers in more affluent countries, and in some circumstances it is depriving fishermen of their right to fish. The solution would be first establishing that traceability is necessary for that specific context, and second that a given system is prepared to take it on.
Q: Where do you hope global fish production will be in 5 years? 10 years?
A stronger focus on fish as food (its nutritional value and contribution towards food sovereignty), greater power and rights given over to small scale and artisanal fishermen in regulatory and economic contexts, and finally a union between mariculture, fishing, and no-take conservation strategies.
Q: What were you doing before you joined Future of Fish?
I was working in Peru as a Peace Corps response volunteer with a local NGO in the region of Piura on small scale and artisanal fisheries issues. Our work was with approximately 35 fishing communities on the issues of formalization, creation of marine protected areas, and the identification of problems that fishermen want resolved. I worked with another NGO on the creation of a fishing cooperative, supply chain shortening, the protection of sailing by the Ministry of Culture, and a few dive studies on nearshore benthic community composition.
Q: What most attracted you to working with Future of Fish?
I was most interested in Future of Fish’s projects on peruvian benthic and near-shore fisheries, as well as their recognition of the need to innovate funding and fishery improvement projects. Also, the grounding of projects within ethnographic study was intriguing.
Q: What are you most looking forward to doing in the next year?
Continuing to work within Peru, helping support improvements in fisheries regulation and management.