Belize’s First FIP Brings a Fresh Approach

Belize group


A First Time For Everything

Known for its relatively progressive fisheries management approaches, such as its network of Marine Protected Areas and Managed Access program, the Caribbean country of Belize now can add another innovation to its list: the Caribbean spiny lobster Fishery Improvement Project (FIP) + Fishery Development Model (FDM).

Pioneering a fresh approach to FIPs, this project will combine the strengths of a traditional FIP’s environmental approach with the social, economic, and data-driven approach of Future of Fish’s Fishery Development Model (FDM). Hoping to address some of the known challenges of a traditional FIP model, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) Belize, Future of Fish (FoF), and the National Fishermen Producers Cooperative Society Ltd (National) have partnered to drive improvements in the spiny lobster fishery that will support livelihoods, businesses, and the environment all at once—an approach that Barr et al (2019) recently referred to as a FIP+.*

This FIP is the first in Belize, and the first time Future of Fish will integrate the FDM’s holistic model into a FIP. It is also the first time the two major lobster cooperatives in Belize—strong competitors in the space— have come together to discuss common challenges and consider a joint-strategy for overcoming these obstacles using an internationally recognized process. The first step towards realizing this goal was to bring together a diverse group of stakeholders with interest and influence over the fate of spiny lobster.

Usual and Unusual Suspects

Our FIP approach puts a slight twist on the typical FIP stakeholder engagement process. Often, a FIP stakeholder meeting has in attendance representatives from supply chain actors, government officials, and NGOs and event is focused on a detailed review of the gaps from the MSC pre-assessment. After the review, stakeholders discuss potential solutions and then agree to a workplan, with different actors signing up for different roles.

For this FIP, we are employing a co-design process that engages stakeholders over a series of meetings to allow for more input into the design of interventions. With an expanded focus on social and economic gaps in addition to the environmental ones, we have designed more time for stakeholders to brainstorm strategies (Workshop 1) and then refine them into actionable solutions (Workshop 2).

For this first meeting, we focused on idea generation with individuals representing fishers, cooperatives, fisheries ministry, community development, and local NGOs. We also brought in a representative from TNC Bahamas Lobster FIP that has now advanced to MSC certification to highlight that progress is possible and reflect on the many challenges that are similar in both systems. The ideas generated were weighted towards the needs of the first mile, as well as government officials, which we believe to be an important starting point. Here’s why:

One frequent stuck point in the traditional FIP model is that the benefits of the FIP are realized quickly by the downstream supply chain partners, while the burden of behavior change is on the first-mile actors who may not see a return on their investment for some time. A goal of our co-design approach is for the time in-between workshops to allow for vetting ideas and engaging additional expertise, in order to ground ideas in reality as well as identify both short and medium-term incentives to bolster stakeholder commitment and engagement.

The workshops are also designed to provide opportunity to more thoroughly understand and gauge capacity of individuals and organizations to execute different roles in order to appropriately set expectations and fill gaps where needed. We are also including individuals interested in community and economic development of the region, as well as representatives from diverse government ministries, to help expand the universe of potential strategies and resources that can be employed to tackle the gaps identified.

Generating Impact for People, Planet, and Profit

By the end of the workshop, we had generated 15 independent intervention ideas across 11 different gaps: 6 environmental (based on the MSC pre-assessment); 3 economic; and 2 social. For each gap, groups identified:
  1. An approach for addressing the gap
  2. Activities required for executing that approach
  3. Partners needed for successful execution
  4. Resources (non-monetary) such as expertise, tools, infrastructure, to successfully implement the approach and activities
  5. The risks to success
  6. The incentives that could be built in to attract and maintain participation
  7. A rough budget for the activities

While these ideas are a first pass, they provide raw materials from which to further refine and design intervention strategies in the following workshop.

In addition to generating initial strategies, we also worked to identify available funding that already exists in the system that could be leveraged to support some of these ideas. This funding exercise will be complemented by a financial landscape to identify potential sources of funding to fill existing gaps. As a major barrier to FIPs in the past has been lack of adequate funding, developing a proactive financing strategy is a core focus of the FIP+ FDM, and it is why we invited local funders interested in community and economic development of the region to join initial discussions. Specifically, the FDM looks to create a blended finance approach that can support multiple interventions at scale across economic, social, and environmental domains. 

Next Steps

The information generated by this first workshop will be used to help us identify what kinds of expertise we may need to bring into the second co-design, along with additional stakeholders that were named as key to success. Our next steps will include researching potential models that ground these ideas in reality, and exploring ways to build in accountability and verification into the program as a whole. Importantly, we will also be determining requirements for joining the FIP, and thinking through the roles and structure of a steering committee.

We have our work cut out for us but to say this first meeting was “productive” is certainly an understatement! We are grateful for the enormous thought and enthusiastic participation of all those who attended and look forward to shaping these ideas into a FIP workplan over the next few weeks and through the second co-design.

While this initiative is a first on many levels, it builds off a growing movement within the sustainable fisheries and seafood communities to progress FIPs to account for more than just the environment. For example, the Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions working group on social responsibility is currently developing and testing a scorecard for social responsibility in seafood that can be incorporated into FIPs; NGOs such as Conservation International and Ocean Outcomes are similarly testing triple impact FIP models in select fisheries. We are excited to be at this cutting edge of exploration that considers the well-being of fishers and communities alongside that of the environment. We’ve dove in head first in Belize, and look forward to continuing to share our success stories, failures, and lessons learned as we progress.

Are you interested in the sustainable future of Caribbean spiny lobster? Do you support healthy communities and local economic development? Are you interested in innovation and systems change? Get in touch with us to find out how you can help support this novel approach to securing livelihoods, businesses, and the lobster that underpin it all. Email Shannon McDiarmid, Markets and Supply Chain Lead at Future of Fish: smcdiarmid@futureoffish.org.

This FIP is currently a prospective FIP launched on FisheryProgress by TNC Belize, FoF, and National Fishermen Producers Cooperative Society Ltd. in December 2018. The event last week was the first in a series of stakeholder meetings that support advancement of the FIP to a comprehensive listing in the next two to three months.

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*Barr et al. 2019 recently defined a FIP+ within the context of small-scale fisheries (SSF) as a revised FIP approach that incorporates “a broader set of integrated and complementary interventions that recognize the complex social and economic landscape inherent within SSF, and that SSF reform will not occur through simply raising fishers’ income alone.” The combined FIP+FDM approach is designed to account for these additional considerations and thus, could fall into the category of a FIP+.. Barr, R., Bruner, A. and Edwards, S. 2019. Fisheries Improvement Projects and small-scale fisheries: the need for a modified approach. Marine Policy. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2019.02.053

 

Published July 1, 2019

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