Improving and promoting best practice in the Yucatan Octopus fishery

Comunidad y Biodiversidad, A.C (COBI) and Red and Common Octopus Fishery: Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

Amount awarded: £46,822

This project will help an octopus fishery in Yucatan, Mexico to make sure endangered species of crab are not being used as bait. It will also improve data collection and monitoring systems to make sure the octopus are being targeted at a sustainable level.

The Yucatan octopus fishery targets red octopus (Octopus maya) and the common octopus, (Octopus americanus), with Yucatan state the country’s largest producer of octopus in Mexico. The red octopus fishery alone supports 15,000 jobs and has an annual value of more than $27 million (USD).

The fishery has grown rapidly in recent years and has been in a fishery improvement project since 2019, supported by Comunidad y Biodiversidad (COBI).

The fishery is also verified through the In-Transition to MSC Program, making it eligible for Transition Assistance Funding. The funding received will help the fishery to make the improvements needed to meet the MSC Fisheries Standard and enter assessment by 2024.

What the project will do

This Ocean Stewardship Funded project will help the fishery to record more catch data and develop a better understanding of the octopus stock. The catch data will be monitored and compared with catches from previous years, allowing the fishery to be more responsive to changes in stock levels and cease fishing activities if required.

The fishery’s growth has led to an increased demand for crabs as bait. This has resulted in many different species being imported from across Mexico, including land crabs from the mangroves in the state of Tabasco. The illegal use of endangered American horseshoe crabs has also been reported in some fishing communities, though has not been associated with the Yucatan octopus fishery.

This project will enable the fishery to monitor the different species of crab used and carry out genetic testing to make sure bait does not include endangered species. It will also help build understanding of how sourcing different crab species impacts the wider ecosystem and enable the development of a strategy for the sustainable use of bait.

This funding will allow us to demonstrate that the fishery is environmentally and financially sustainable and socially responsible within small-scale fishing communities. It will also allow us to identify areas of opportunity that must be improved within the fishing system as a whole.

Lorena Rocha Tejeda, Curator Comunidad y Biodiversidad, A.C.

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