Fisheries Improvement Projects

EcoWB helps small-scale fishers and fishing communities around the world become more sustainable and profitable. We specialize in Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs), an effective and widely used approach to improving small-scale fisheries.  Our work with FIPs consist of technical assessments of the status of a fishery; prescribed actions to improve the efficiency, economic viability, and sustainability of that fishery; and training and support in implementing those actions.  We encourage you to contact us to discuss how our volunteers can help you design, fund, and implement a FIP that will benefit you and your community.  Non-English speakers are welcome!

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For more information on EcoWB’s FIP Program and type of assistance we provide, please go here.  To learn about EcoWB’s ongoing FIP projects, please visit our Projects webpage. 


Small-scale fisheries account for 30% of the catch in marine fisheries globally, but employ 90% of all fishers. The health of these small-scale fisheries is vital for maintaining global seafood stocks, as well as ongoing economic and social benefits to surrounding communities. Fishers in these communities recognize an increasing demand by consumers for sustainably managed seafood. Yet they often lack the resources to achieve the certifications necessary to harness this growth.

Ecologists Without Borders (EcoWB) is uniquely positioned to help small-scale fishers and fishing communities around the world become more sustainable and economically viable. Our cadre of fisheries scientists and managers are able and willing to donate their time and expertise to improve the environmental, social, and economic conditions that underpin these important fisheries.

The benefits that derive from the conservation of aquatic ecosystems and the fisheries they support are widely recognized. As a result, the demand for sustainably caught fish is increasing as part of a broader trend in environmentally conscious consumerism. Sustainability certification such as the system developed by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) benefit socially and environmentally responsible fisheries through expanded marketing opportunities. Because consumers, chefs, and retailers prefer to purchase seafood from well-managed fisheries, sustainability certification is increasingly important to economic viability.


The road to sustainability and MSC certification can be challenging, particularly for small-scale fishers. These fishers often lack the financial resources, technical expertise, and organizational capacity necessary to assess the current status of the fisheries, the fish stocks, and the environment.  While many small-scale fishers support practices that can lead to long-term sustainability, they often require outside assistance to devise and undertake improvements that can ensure future benefits.


By working closely with local fishers and their communities, EcoWB can help small-scale fisheries improve sustainability practices and economic opportunities. Together with their local partners, EcoWB can gather, analyze, and interpret the data necessary to prescribe measures to improve sustainability and gauge progress toward certification. We can help educate and train fishers and other actors in the supply chain, and prescribe actions to encourage increased participation and compliance.


The foregoing activities are subsumed under a well-established, systematic process referred to as Fisheries Improvement Projects (FIPs), with the goal of helping small-scale fisheries become more sustainable.  FIP activities are initiated by meeting with representatives of the fishery to ascertain their interests and needs. Available information is compiled and analyzed to determine the status of the fisheries relative to baseline conditions and sustainability goals and standards developed by MSC, Fair Trade, or other certification bodies.  Specific actions and performance metrics are recommended and, if endorsed by FIP participants, implemented. The FIP process can be used to improve the productivity and sustainability of any fishery, even if achieving formal certification is not a priority.

EcoWB works closely with local stakeholders and partners to ensure successful, broadly supported FIP outcomes.  When a potential FIP project is proposed, members of EcoWB’s FIP Steering Committee consult with project proponents to determine if a FIP is both desirable and feasible.  If a general consensus is reached, the Committee issues a call for EcoWB volunteers who possess the requisite technical expertise and time to work on the project.  A project manager and key project personnel are selected; FIP projects are managed by experts who have undergone MSC’s Technical Training, and who have worked extensively with small-scale fisheries in the past. After a project team is formed, they meet with local stakeholders to develop a work plan and launch the FIP process.

 EcoWB is here to help!

EcoWB works with fisheries representatives who have requested our services and are willing to work collaboratively to improve their fishery. We can help with any of the following tasks:

  • Educating local fishers and stakeholders about the benefits of sustainable fisheries and the FIP approach to improving sustainability and attaining MSC certification.
  • Ascertaining local fishers’ goals for themselves, their families, and their communities; and what they perceive as barriers to achieving sustainable fisheries.
  • Defining fish species and populations of interest, units of assessment, and stakeholder groups and leaders.
  • Conducting a preliminary (rapid) assessment based on best available data to determine the current status and trend of the fisheries relative to MSC standards.
  • Consulting with local stakeholders to determine if they support and would participate in a FIP given the requirements for certification.
  • Conducting a Pre-Assessment, developing and implement an Action Plan, and applying MSC Benchmarking and Tracking Tools to monitor progress relative to the fishery baseline and MSC’s sustainability standards.
  • Identifying data needs, experimental and monitoring designs, data collection protocols.
  • Conducting data collection, parameter estimates, and stock assessments.
  • Facilitating policy discussions and development of Action Plans.
  • Mentoring and training local stakeholders to operationalize their Action Plan.
  • Assisting with fundraising and the development of services, products and markets to raise the profile and improve the demand and value of fish caught by FIP participants.
  • Soliciting endorsements and commitments from key stakeholders, including government agencies and supply chain actors.

If you would like to see examples of our work, please visit the EcoWB Projects page of our website to read about FIPs we are currently undertaking in Peru and Mexico. If we can be of assistance to you or your community, please feel free to contact us.


Please visit the EcoWB FIP Program webpage and Contact Us if you need assistance or want to Volunteer!

Ecologists without Borders

P.O. Box 51094, Seattle, WA 98115 USA

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