Today, Chile is a global example for good near-shore fisheries management. The emblematic Chilean abalone, and other important seafood, like mussels, limpets, and sea urchins live in the rocky and sandy bottoms along the Chilean coast and support the livelihoods of 50,000 artisanal fishermen and their families as a primary source of income. But, as recently as the 1980s, Chile’s artisanal fisheries were plagued by poor management. Fishers would move up and down the coast from one port to the next following natural resource blooms. The once abundant and valuable Chilean abalone was overfished, leaving an overexploited fishery that was shut down.
This was an urgent wake-up call. Soon, leading fishers, scientists, management technicians and authorities came together, to listen and learn, and to find solutions for restoring Chilean fishing grounds to sustainable levels. In doing this, they also found a way to secure the future livelihoods of the people earning a living from near shore fisheries.
A key part of the solution, in 1991, was the implementation of a territorial use rights in fisheries or TURF policy that grants use rights to fishing associations in a given territory. The associations took responsibility of managing the resources found within a given area. This policy was eventually embraced by local people involved in the near shore fisheries, especially when they began to see the restoration of marine life within TURF-governed areas. Fishing associations would have more say over the resources they would harvest and manage as well as an increasing voice in the politics governing the sector and its actors.
Today, near shore shellfish fisheries employ around 55% of the almost 90,000 Chilean artisanal fishermen. Most of their families depend highly on the harvest and sale of these seafood products as a source of income, so it is easy to understand the importance of managing these resources sustainably for coastal communities.