Case Study: Chilean Coastal Fisheries

The implementation of a national policy to achieve sustainable exploitation levels by restricting access to areas of the coastal seabed in Chile required a substantial investment in capacity-building for the training of fishers, technicians (such as divers and marine technical personnel), and graduate and undergraduate students who contributed to the scientific knowledge base.

The Chilean Fisheries and Aquaculture Law of 1991 defines artisanal fishers and incorporates new regulations that affect user rights through three management components: allocation of exclusive fishing rights within five nautical miles of the shoreline to artisanal fishers, restriction of artisanal fishers’ access to the coastal zone adjacent to their regions of residence, and allocation of exclusive benthic-resource extractive rights in given areas of the seabed to organized unions, associations, cooperatives, and registered artisanal fishers.

It took about 20 years to complete the full development and implementation of small-scale comanagement policies regarding the benthic resources of a subset of some 250 small-scale fishers in central Chile. During that time, the total investment was US$5.5 million, which supported the training of roughly 300 small-scale fishers, 28 technicians (such as divers and marine technical personnel), 4 doctoral and 2 masters candidates, and 34 undergraduate students.

Researchers in central Chile studied the fisheries and ecosystems to understand restocking rates of benthic resources after area closures and facilitated the legal institutionalization of exclusive territorial user rights for fisheries for two artisanal associations (Caleta Quintay and Caleta el Quisco) and a no-take reserve (EstaciĆ³n Costera de Investigaciones Marinas in Las Cruces), which was established in 1982. This small initial project was the basis of expansion to more than 500 MEABRs, including more than 15,000 fishers along the Chilean coast.

The measures have increased fishing income, retained and enhanced community and cultural identity, and served as a basis of community empowerment.

Four elements contributed to the success of the effort:

  • The existence of a well-organized system of artisanal fishing communities and national artisanal fisheries associations.
  • Successes in the experimental pilot cases and the ability of fishing communities to replicate the successful examples.
  • A clear set of rules and the existence of local know-how and technical capacities to expand the implementation of MEABRs.
  • Research and publications by scientists who received substantial financial resources from Chile and abroad.