Feed the Future
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Aquaculture Without Frontiers: Helping Develop Restructured Fish Products in Mexico

This piece was written by Dr. Antonio Garza de Yta from Universidad Tecnológica del Mar de Tamaulipas and Roy Palmer from Aquaculture Without Frontiers. 

In Mexico, Aquaculture without Frontiers (AwF) has developed a memorandum of understanding with the new Universidad Tecnológica del Mar de Tamaulipas (UTMarT) based in La Pesca, Soto La Marina in the state of Tamaulipas. With the assistance of the state government, UTMarT is working with the local fishers and their cooperative organizers in offering specific education opportunities to the fishers' children. These efforts are helping to bridge communication between all parties.

One of the programs starting to form from these new liaisons is the Restructured Fish program, which creates new products for the market from underutilized species and “waste fish.” This initiative employs local women while helping to feed schoolchildren.

Everyone sees this as a win-win arrangement tackling many problems. Unwanted waste fish is a major issue in many countries so this approach is something that could possibly be applied to other regions.

Many assorted products were designed using the skills and imagination of the staff and students at UTMarT. Women from the community were trained to prepare the products, which were then used to feed schoolchildren in the area. The state government assisted with the funding and even got engaged in taste testing during product development.

Schoolchildren are benefiting from the program, as they are now enjoying nutritious fish as part of their weekly diets. These successes are seen as a breakthrough where government, higher education, industry and the community are all involved in different ways towards solving a significant issue. In various parts of the world, many species of fish are discarded due to low popularity, and much fish is wasted through poor processing or infrastructure. This program highlights what can be done to combat the issue if people work together.

The next phase is to work with the community and local conservation groups in improving area mangroves. The initial plan is to create a mangrove restoration center, which will encourage students and members of the community to work together. UTMarT staff will build study programs around mangroves and will collaborate with AwF to reach out to other groups around the world.

Mangroves provide ecosystem services to coastal communities across 123 tropical and subtropical countries and support fisheries through nursery habitat provision, refugia and nutrient out-welling. The lack of large-scale data on mangroves means the importance of mangrove-fishery linkages is not well-understood globally.

We do know that mangroves are disappearing globally at an alarming rate. As a result, there is a need to build some global understanding to:

  • Understand current mangrove-fishery linkages and determine which attributes related to the presence of mangroves are important to fisheries;
  • Determine whether global and regional catch data suggests a link between mangrove presence and fisheries productivity;
  • Relate resulting conclusions to many fine-scale local case studies that investigate the link between mangrove attributes to local artisanal fisheries and community livelihoods; and
  • Estimate the potential impacts of global change (including mangrove loss by climate related and anthropogenic impacts) over a range of spatial scales on artisanal fisheries and subsequently the communities dependent on them

Environmental issues are typically far away from the minds of people who are struggling to obtain food to survive or who are trading products globally. There clearly needs to be more education and engagement in understanding the consequences. If we are not getting those important messages through to the industry, then it will be even harder to get them through to the public.

UTMarT is working with the Tamaulipas State government and various Mexican national government authorities to organize a Rural Aquaculture Conference where discussions on subjects like these can take place and practical workshops can be arranged. AwF will be engaged in this effort and welcomes inputs from interested parties.