Sustainable small scale fishery development


In nearshore waters of the Costa Rican Pacific coast, fishers from the Coyote and Bejuco communities fish from small vessels with bottom-longlines to harvest snapper year-round and market them domestically. The Nicoya Peninsula artisanal snapper fishery is jeopardized by diminishing returns due to unsustainable and illegal extraction from industrialized shrimp trawlers, and low earnings caused by dependency on long chains of custody.

Spotted rose snapper

Villagers have formed artisanal fishing associations who mandate local regulations and best fishery practices to safeguard their coastal community heritage. The project supports these interests by combining a product certification strategy and marine protected area development to create sustainable seafood markets and improve coastal resource governance regimes.


1.Catch composition 

Continuous monitoring of catch composition (e.g. size limits, fishing effort, mortality, maximum sustainable yields) and collection of fisher ecological knowledge allows fishery observers to establish a harvest strategy for snappers and common bycatch species. Successful monitoring is founded on trustful collaboration between observers and fishers

2. Artisanal snapper fishery management plan

Catch composition and fishers ecological knowledge gathered through participatory events are compiled into a management plan and approved by the fishing associations. As a local governance tool, the plan details ‘best practice’ fishing methods and measures to maintain a sustainable snapper fishery. It can promote recognition of co-management strategies at the national level


3.Multiple-use marine protected areas (MPAs)

Two multiple-use MPAs permit usage of artisanal bottom longlines and hand lines but prohibit less selective methods like shrimp trawl nets. Following approval by a fisher-led consultation process, the MPAs’ legal frameworks and management plans reflect local resource user interests and protect them against industrial as well as illegal fishing activities.


4.Alternative markets for certified fish


International certification is used to generate interest from tourist resorts, restaurants and upscale fish markets in locally-sourced sustainable snapper. A chain of custody willing to invest in the certification process will help assure high quality products, attain better prices and increase fishers’ earnings – thus promoting the fishery’s socio-economic development.

5.Co-management systems of fisheries governance

The management plan for certification serves as a tool to promote local governance initiatives by demonstrating fishers’ capacity, commitment and responsibility to effectively co-manage their resource. Supposing political will, it may trigger formal recognition of co-management principles / effective co-management systems in the area as an alternative approach to the existing centralized governance frameworks.