In 1991, Chile established a national coastal policy that gave legal authority to assign exclusive access rights to artisanal fisher organizations. By the 2000s, there were several hundred fishing organizations that had been granted access rights in different biophysical and socioeconomic settings across Chile. Known as Territorial Use Rights in Fisheries (TURFs), today the approach is becoming a widely promoted tool worldwide to enhance the sustainability of small-scale fisheries.

In a new paper published in the Bulletin of Marine Science, ACS and colleagues present results from a survey of over 500 Chilean fishers from 55 different artisanal fisher organizations. Led by ACS Associate Stefan Gelcich, the survey focused on exploring fisher's perceptions of the main problems, benefits, and potential improvements concerning TURFs. Main key problems, as perceived by fishers, include increased costs associated with surveillance and poaching, and the variability and sometimes lack of financial returns. Despite major price drops in seafood exports, TURFs have provided incentives for innovation and stewardship, and fishers are generally unwilling to relinquish them. Fishers perceive the benefits of TURFs in multiple dimensions, which include biodiversity conservation value. They also perceive empowerment as an important benefit from TURFs, as do the presidents of the fishing organizations. 

The paper goes on to discuss potential solutions to the challenges fishers face with the Chilean TURF system. These include the development of stocking activities, combining TURFs with marine reserves, food traceability, and what we call BIO+ seafood—products that have associated biodiversity benefits. You can read the paper here.

Gelcich, S., J. Cinner, C.J. Donlan, S Tapia-Lewin, N. Godoy, J.C. Castilla 2016. Fishers’ perceptions on the Chilean coastal TURF system after two decades: problems, benefits, and emerging needs