Ecuador is home to the largest small-scale artisanal fishing fleet in the Southeast Pacific Ocean with approximately 15,500 fishing vessels, employing over 58,000 people. The supply chain of marine commodities (fishers, processors, transportation, refrigeration, etc.) in Ecuador represented 1.5% of the country’s total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2015. 

 Country context 

Ecuador’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 276,840 km2 extends into the Eastern Pacific Ocean between Peru to the South and Colombia to the North. The upwelling from the nutrient-rich Humboldt Current in combination with Cromwell subsurface and Equatorial currents creates one the richest fishing grounds worldwide, making fisheries an important activity for the livelihoods of coastal communities. Ecuador is within the top 25 countries in terms of wild fish capture with 715,357 metric tons (Mt) reported in 2016.  The three most significant fisheries in the country by volume in 2017 were the small pelagic (337,053 Mt) tuna (286,946 Mt) and mahi-mahi (6,153 Mt) fisheries.

The Ecuadorian tuna purse seiner fleet is the largest in the Eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO) and the country has the biggest processing capacity in the EPO. The small pelagic purse seiner fleet is comprised of 267 vessels and an estimated 23,000 people are directly employed within the small pelagic fish supply chain. 

Source: Alava, Juan José & Lindop, Alasdair & Jacquet, Jennifer. (2015). Marine Fisheries Catch Reconstructions for Continental Ecuador: 1950-2010. 10.13140/2.1.1150.5447.

In addition, Ecuador is home to the largest small-scale artisanal fishing fleet in the Southeast Pacific Ocean with approximately 15,500 fishing vessels, employing over 58,000 people. The supply chain of marine commodities (fishers, processors, transportation, refrigeration, etc.) in Ecuador represented 1.5% of the country’s total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2015. 

Although several fisheries in Ecuador have been working on improving their sustainability, no Ecuadorian fishery has achieved international sustainability certification to date. Because there are still issues preventing Ecuador’s purse seiner tuna fleet from receiving sustainable certification, the Monterrey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch recommends to “avoid” purchasing Tuna from the Eastern Pacific Ocean purse seiner fleet.

Even though Ecuador’s pole and line tuna fishery is considered a sustainable technique for fishing with limited to zero bycatch, the pole and line fleet has nearly disappeared due to weak organization and cooperation within the fleet, poor post capture practices and lack of commercialization channels. 

In the Ecuadorian mahi-mahi fishery, the lack of information, regional stock management strategies and national participatory governance has prevented the fishery from receiving eco-certification.

Finally, the small pelagic fishery is a multispecies fishery and has had challenges defining agreed upon management strategies in the past and have not yet carried out a complete stock analysis for all species within the fishery. 


 Country Project Objetives

The GMC project in Ecuador will directly benefit more than 105,000 people whose livelihoods depend directly on the four target fisheries.  The project will support the creation and implementation of Sustainable Marine Commodity Platforms (SMCP), or dialogue spaces for key stakeholders within the Small and Large Pelagic fisheries.  These Platforms will provide a shared decision-making space for the private sector and government representatives in order to design, update and monitor consensus-based National Action Plans for each fishery.

In addition, the project supports the development and implementation of Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs) and the connection of FIPs to international seafood buyers and retailers who are interested in purchasing sustainably sourced seafood. 

Specifically, the GMC Project in Ecuador will:

  • Create two Sustainable Marine Commodity Platforms (SMCP):
    1. Small pelagic fish
    2. Large pelagic fish (tuna, mahi-mahi and other species).
  • Support the development, updating and implementation of National Action Plans (NAPs) for target fisheries.
  • Promote the institutionalization of the SMCP as a co-management mechanism for each fishery.
  • Support the private sector through the design and implementation of FIPs such as the small pelagic FIP, mahi-mahi FIP, pole and line FIP and tuna purse seine FIP.

 Supported Fishery Improvement Projects (FIP)

The GMC Project supports the implementation of the following FIPs in Ecuador.

Mahi Mahi longline FIP:

The goal of the Ecuador mahi-mahi FIP is to move the fishery in a step-wise approach towards Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification by June 2019.  Since the FIP published its Work Plan in 2010, the private sector and government have taken several actions to improve the sustainability of the fishery.  These include strengthening the data collection processes for mahi-mahi and associated species, the observer program, port inspections, and carrying out an international quantitative stock assessment.

The FIP still must define reference points relative to BMSY or a similar productivity level, as well as the implementation of harvest control rules that allow for responsive management to changes in the stock status.  In addition, the nature of this fishery requires strong international cooperation between Ecuadorian and Peruvian fishery authorities to establish and enforce bi-national harvest rules.

The GMC project will help the FIP in order to enhance the cooperation between regional stakeholder of mahi-mahi (Ecuador, Perú y Costa Rica). In addition, stakeholders will participate on the Large Pelagic Platform to improve the governance of the fishery and update the NAP. Those activities will move the FIP a step closer to MSC certification.

Fishery Progress Profile:  Ecuador mahi-mahi – longline  

Eastern Pacific Ocean Tropical Tuna Purse Seine FIP (TUNACONS)

Several Ecuadorian purse seine Tuna fishing companies created the TUNACONS FIP in July 2016. The FIP outlines a series of actions required to achieve MSC certification.  There are 45 purse seine vessels, representing 17% of the Ecuadorian fleet, operating within the TUNACONS FIP.  To date, the FIP has accomplished several actions delineated in its work plan, including successful lobbying for the government of Ecuador to adopt stronger conservation and management measures, support for ecosystem assessments and scientific analysis of conservation status of sharks in Ecuadorian waters, strengthening of monitoring, control and surveillance systems and more.

The large pelagic platform will provide an opportunity to FIP members to share the benefits of their experience to all stakeholders in order to improve the sustainability of the fishery at a national level. In concrete, the platform will assist on the implementation of the tuna NAP and improve the participatory governance of the fishery.

Fishery Progress Profile:  Eastern Pacific Ocean tropical tuna – purse seine

Small Pelagic Fish FIP

This FIP was developed in 2018 as an effort of 18 Ecuadorian supply chain companies to improve the sustainability of the fisheries associated with the Ecuadorian fish product reduction industry (Fishmeal, fish oils, etc.). The FIP seeks to make measurable improvements to the management of the small pelagic fishery, which encompasses 10 target species, and earn certification under the IFFO RS Standard. On October 16, 2018, the FIP was accepted in the IFFO RS improvement program which is the first step towards certification. The FIP is led by the “Cámara Nacional de Pesquería” and it has begun implementation.

The project is assisting directly with the implementation of the FIP by providing technical assistance. In addition, the small pelagic Platform will develop the NAP in order to improve the sustainability at a national level of the fishery. These improvements will help FIP members to achieve the IFFO RS certification.

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  Contact information

Ana María Núñez
Oficial de Programa, Área de Ambiente y Energía
PNUD Ecuador


  Country partners