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Territorial Use Rights (TURFs) in Chile

March 12, 2012

There’s a good article out in the Economist.  It gives a quick sketch of the use of Territorial Use Rights (TURFs) in Chile:

OFF Chile’s Pacific coastline, between December and February, divers take to the chilly waters in search of a predatory sea-snail, the loco (Concholepas concholepas). Boiled and daubed in mayonnaise, it is a local favourite. Asian gourmets prefer it stir-fried or as sashimi.

The snail’s popularity rocketed when Chile opened its markets in the late 1970s. This was nearly its undoing: it fetched $15,000 a tonne at export and a snail rush ensued. In 1980 Chilean fishermen landed 25,000 tonnes; by 1989, when the fishery was officially closed, stocks had collapsed. That is a sad and familiar tale. But it has an inspiring sequel.

On reopening the fishery, the government changed the rules. Small groups of artisanal fishermen, registered as co-operatives, had exclusive rights to harvest loco and other benthic creatures in a defined area of seabed. They were also encouraged to chase away illegal snail-gatherers. This has been good for man and snail. Chile’s 50,000 artisanal fishermen now produce a steady, and lucrative, 2,500-5,000 tonnes of loco a year.

The article also discusses a new tool to evaluate the status of fisheries worldwide, which importantly tries to account for missing information on fisheries in developing countries.  There’s an on-going debate on whether or not the fisheries we know the least about are doing well or not.  

In my own view, data-poor fisheries are probably doing quite poor.  I was recently in Ecuador and many domestic fisheries have greatly declined.



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