Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing in Peru creates many challenges for fishers, the Peruvian government, and buyers and sellers of fish, while also threatening the country’s marine resources.
Jacinto, an artisanal Peruvian fisher and president of his local fishing association, says “if fishing permits continue to be provided illegally” by corrupt officials, “resources will gradually be depleted.”
He and the fishers in his association also face lost income from illegal fishing, since undocumented or falsely documented boats unfairly compete with legal boats.
Peru’s Ministry of Production estimates that about 60 percent of Peru’s artisanal fishing vessels are informal or illegal, according to Jose Alvarez of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Peru. To address this problem, WWF worked with USAID and actors across the seafood production chain through the Targeting Natural Resource Corruption project to develop and refine the TrazApp phone application.
By strengthening fisheries management, the app helps prevent illegal and mislabeled products from entering markets, and supports legal and equitable human welfare conditions for seafood laborers.
With the app, fishers like Jacinto can register their catches to meet formalization requirements and the sustainability demands of international markets. Jacinto’s cooperative can more easily sell mahi mahi and squid in the United States, the European Union, and Japan — all of which have strict requirements to stop the import of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fish products. Fishers can also compare buying prices on the app to sell to the highest bidder.
In addition to fishers, boat owners, landing site operators, intermediaries, and fish processors can access catch information and, ultimately, show the origins of products to buyers. Since the app’s electronic documentation reduces the need for paper documents — which are easier to falsify, it also limits document fraud and the related “whitewashing” of illegal fishing products.
As Jacinto puts it: “The only way to fight corruption is through formalization.”
As part of the TrazApp development and outreach, WWF Peru provides trainings for app users and potential new adopters to learn about the technology and how to use it. The trainings build community trust and provide USAID and WWF with insights for how to adapt the app to meet real needs.
Since the pilot began in March 2019, more than 200 boat owners have joined TrazApp, digitally documenting more than 5,500 fishing trips and 64,000 tons of fishing products.
In the next phase of expansion, the TrazApp team is working with inspectors in northern Peru to issue digital capture certificates, and with processing plants to train their suppliers in using the app.
USAID and WWF are also focusing on a critical next step: adding official digital departure certificates to TrazApp. With this feature, fishers can request departure authorization directly from their phones. Digital certificates like this have become more important than ever during the global COVID-19 pandemic, which has made in-person permitting more difficult and dangerous.
Jacinto and his colleagues now encourage others to use TrazApp.
“We are very happy with the app because it allows us to track many details, such as which port we are leaving and arriving from and also the characteristics of our catch,” he said.
Jacinto hopes this new digital record will continue to build trust across the fishing supply chain and with buyers around the world.
In the long-term, traceability systems like Trazapp can address economic, ecological, and social goals by preventing illegal and mislabeled products from entering markets, strengthening effective fisheries management, and supporting legal and equitable human welfare conditions for seafood laborers.
Learn more about USAID’s Targeting Natural Resource Corruption project and its efforts to strengthen anti-corruption policy and practice in conservation and natural resource management.
Learn more about USAID’s engagement in seafood traceability globally through the Seafood Alliance for Legality and Traceability.
About the Author
Tiffany Gibert is a senior communications specialist for Environmental Incentives, supporting USAID’s Sharing Environment and Energy Knowledge and Measuring Impact II activities.