Your Details

Your job title:

Executive Director

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Your organization name:

SmartFish Rescate de Valor, AC

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https://www.smartfishac.org

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When was your organization founded?

2013

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In what city, town, or region are you located?

La Paz, BCS, Mexico
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In what city, town, or region is your organization headquartered?

La Paz, BCS, Mexico
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In which countries does your organization currently operate?

  • Mexico
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About You

Why are you applying for The Elevate Prize?

I am applying for the opportunity to connect with global thought partners from other sectors to explore how to leverage SmartFish’s Value Rescue Model to empower small-scale fisher cooperatives to make their voices heard in decision-making fora and in the global supply chains they underpin. Fisher communities face economic and environmental challenges, but are not able participate meaningfully in fisheries management decisions nor in the globalized seafood value chain. SmartFish’s Value Rescue model creates incentives for fishers to adopt sustainable practices, it increases fisher incomes’ and creates job opportunities for women in coastal communities. In doing so, fisher cooperatives become stronger institutions. I see the Elevate Prize as a forum to help SmartFish and our cooperative partners learn from other experiences and support these fisher organizations to build local power and agency, increase their ability to participate more equitably in seafood supply chains and build thriving coastal communities. SmartFish is developing strategies and tools to scale-up our model by transferring our know-how to other organizations working in coastal communities throughout Mexico. We feel that local organizations are best positioned to adapt the model to the local realities. The Elevate Prize also presents an opportunity to expand our work beyond Mexico.

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Tell us about YOU:

I have worked in environmental conservation for over 20 years, and while I am passionate about the need to protect our planet’s ecosystems, I have always been a little uncomfortable by what I perceive as environmentalists’ propensity to blame rural, mostly poor and disenfranchised communities for ecosystem destruction, deforestation or over-fishing. I was born in Argentina but moved to Kenya when I was three, fleeing the military dictatorship. I also lived in Switzerland and studied in the USA. I have lived Mexico for 17 years. My father worked in non-governmental and intergovernmental conservation organizations, where he always sought to bring the human aspect and the voices of local communities to his work. In many ways I have followed in his footsteps. My global upbringing, and especially living in Switzerland and Mexico, two countries that are very different in many ways, but that share a deep tradition of communal organizations, from the highly autonomous commune, the most local level of governance in Switzerland, to the Mexican ejido system for communal land tenure or the cooperative society in fisheries. SmartFish’s Value Rescue model is deeply rewarding because puts local institutions at the center of the solution to coastal over-fishing.

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Video Introduction

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Pitch your organization.

40% of the planet's fish stocks are over-fished or collapsed. According to the World Bank, as much as 83 billion dollars are lost annually in foregone economic benefits compared to what could be generated through more sustainable management of fisheries. Small-scale fisheries employ over 100 million people globally, and most are in developing countries. In Mexico, like much of the developing world, artisanal fishers are caught in a race to fish. They are driven to land as much fish as they can catch, without regard for quality or the future of their fish stocks. SmartFish’s Value Rescue Model addresses the inefficiencies and misaligned incentives throughout the complex small-scale seafood system. We begin with internationally recognized standards to assess and improve the management of wild fish stocks. We partner with small scale fisher co-ops to improve how seafood is caught, killed, handled and processed; how to implement cost-effective logistics solutions; and how to process and freeze seafood applying food safety standards, thereby creating jobs in coastal communities, especially for women. We help the co-ops improve their internal management and implement digital traceability and record keeping systems so they are better able to meet buyers’ demands, transforming them from price-takers to entrepreneurs.

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Describe what makes your work innovative.

At SmartFish we believe that for cooperatives to be strong environmental stewards and provide social safety nets for their communities, it is vital that they be financially viable. Our innovation has been to draw on experiences from diverse disciplines to develop a proven, triple-bottom-line intervention model for artisanal fisheries. We use market incentives to change fishers’ behavior regarding sustainability, and digital traceability technology to make fishers visible to final consumers. We created a seafood company that partners with the co-ops to access better-paying markets. Our expertise in, and focus on business analysis and development for artisanal cooperatives, as well as a deep understanding of the seafood market is unusual in the artisanal fisheries and marine conservation sectors, which tend to focus primarily on the harvest or fishery management problems rather than the entire supply chain. We have incorporated tools and lessons from small-scale agriculture, adapting it to a sector that harvests highly-stressed, wild resources, and cannot increase production. Our model was shown to increase cooperatives’ resilience when faced with mayor disruptions such as COVID-19. The cooperatives that implemented the model we able to maintain their market access and price premiums.

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How and why is your organization having an impact on humanity?

Humanity faces the enormous and complex challenge of how to feed the growing global population in an equitable manner and without overwhelming and decimating our planets ecosystems. For a long time, oceans were seen as an infinite source of fish and seafood, until fisheries, like the North Atlantic cod fishery, collapsed and we learned that the ocean too, has limits. While plant-based diets are certainly part of the solution,eshewing seafood is not an option for the millions of small-scale farmers in the Global South. By some estimates, three billion people, almost half the global population, depend on seafood as their primary source of protein. By unlocking access to better paying markets, SmartFish offers a proven model to incentivize small-scale fishers to adopt more sustainable practices, to better distribute the benefits of seafood supply chains, and to offer consumers in the Global South access to sustainable, healthy protein that was produced and processed by cooperative enterprises. Our model also helps to strengthen fisher cooperatives. When well-run these institutions more equitably distribute the wealth generated from fishing, offer important safety nets to local communities, and are the most effective stewards of wild fisheries.

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Select the key characteristics of the community your organization is impacting.

  • Rural
  • Poor
  • Low-Income
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Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your organization address?

  • 1. No Poverty
  • 2. Zero Hunger
  • 5. Gender Equality
  • 12. Responsible Consumption and Production
  • 14. Life Below Water
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Which of the following categories best describes your work?

Food & Agriculture

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Solution Team

 
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