Hook to Fork: Sustainable fishing marketplace in Mexico

Eric Flood

40% of the world’s fish stocks are collapsed or overfished. As the world develops, so does its demand for protein, leaving the nearly 3 billion people consuming fish as a primary source of protein and the 60 million people employed by the industry at significant risk. This potential catastrophe has provided East an opportunity to meet West on Mexico’s coast. Ikejime is a Japanese method of killing fish that reduces lactic acid build-up – typically seen in suffocated fish – that reduces meat quality. Smartfish is an NGO operating across Mexico, teaching this method to fishing cooperatives. As Ikejime is a slow method of harvesting fish, it reduces fishers’ over-catching potential while increasing output quality, and, ideally, increasing fisher incomes. This unique tactic is made even more intriguing as Mexico was recently deemed the most dangerous place in the world for environmental activists. This project will have a dual narrative following Smartfish’s operational efforts and the visual splendor of Mexico’s coastal fishing communities.

Project Rationale: Smartfish may be a for-profit model to follow in creating social impact

Governments have yet to be successful in mitigating overfishing. Smartfish provides a market-driven solution to an environmental problem that others could implement elsewhere if their success is documented.

Fishing on Mexico’s west coast is largely fragmented across many fishing families and cooperatives that hold fast to old fishing and processing methods. This opportunity to capture cultural practices as they shift to adopt foreign and modern influences may fade quickly.

Fishing is only one environmental issue gaining visibility in Mexico. For example, water access rights are a hot issue in western Mexico with indigenous people battling gangs and governments. Smartfish may be an entry point into a larger body of work focused on the impact of environmental shifts on Mexico’s inhabitants (particularly the Yaqui).

Western Mexico provides a beautiful backdrop against which to follow Smartfish’s efforts. For example, La Paz has clear, blue waters contrasted quickly with desert-like and mountainous terrain farther inland.

I am passionate about food and its impact on people and the planet. While I studied food economics, I worked with a range of food-focused ventures. Whether supporting organic food coating startups in California or soil testing services in Mexico, I have focused on where food comes from and whose hands touch it. Additionally, my background in economics will provide a critical lens through which I can document Smartfish’s efforts for this project.