This FIP has been suspended as of April 2017 because of financial constraints.  If you are interested in helping  restart this FIP, please contact Edwin Medina

Fishery Improvement Project

Updated: July 2016


Mahi-mahi (Coryphaena hippurus)

FIP Stage according to CASS progress table: 4, FIP is delivering improvement in policies or practices

FIP Rating according to SFP rating system: A (Exceptional Progress)

FIP Rating according to MSC benchmarking toolInitial (Jan 2014): 0.26; Second (Jan 2015): 0.31; Current (Jan 2016): 0.38.

Fishery Location:

Guatemalan waters; Puerto San Jose is highlighted.

Zona Pesca Guatemala

FIP Coordination: If you would like more information about this FIP or if you wish to support it, please contact Edwin Medina.

FIP Participants:

In Guatemala:

  • Samaritana
  • FENAPESCA (National Federation of Fishermen of Guatemala) and affiliated organizations engaged in the fishery of mahi-mahi
  • ASOPEACE (Cerrito Artisanal Fishermen Association)

USA Importers and wholesalers:

Sustainability Information:

Guatemalan mahi

Publicly Announced Date: February 2014


Current Improvement Recommendations:

  • Recollection of fisheries dependent and independent data to contribute to regional stock assessment
  • Evaluation of the risks to by-catch species through systematic collection of interactions information
  • Approval of a participatory and effective management frame, including a Management Plan
  • Participation in international efforts to coordinate science and management for this stock



The mahi-mahi (Coryphaena hippurus) fishery in Guatemala has been operating for two decades now, through the operation of small scale boats. Medium scale boats targeting other pelagic species such as sharks get some mahi as by-catch. This fishery is an important source of livelihoods in the Pacific coast of Guatemala, particularly at the Escuintla department, one of the major fishing districts in the country.

Mahi-mahi is a highly migratory pelagic species, with occurrence registered in more than 30% of the ocean surface, inhabiting tropical and subtropical, highly oxygenated waters of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Mahi-mahi is a fast-growing predator that lives up to 4 years and can reach a length of 2 meters.

The average length of the specimens caught in Guatemala is 101.1 cm. Very few fish caught are shorter than 69.9 cm, which is the estimated average length at first maturity.

Though most of mahi fisheries are seasonal, presence of mahi in Guatemalan waters is permanent due to particular oceanographic conditions, with peaks at the dry season and climatic transition periods.  Oceanographic events such as El Niño can, however, affect mahi’s usual distribution.

Small boats, of 2 NRT in average, use pelagic, manually operated longlines with a maximum of 1,000 hooks.  Fifteen years ago a medium-scale fleet composed of boats of between 2 and 30 NRT began operations, using mechanized longlines with a maximum of 2,000 hooks. This fleet has decreased from a peak of 27 boats to, currently, just 11. Mahi used to be a target for this fleet, but since 2003 it is targeting sharks and mahi became by-catch for that fishery.

Guatemala has hook regulations, and hook size should not be less than 1.5 inches. The mahi fishery uses circle hooks, a choice which apparently has led to a decreasing mortality for sea turtles.

Mahi-mahi products are mainly exported to the United States.


Problems / key issues identified:

Major problems in this fishery are:

  • Lack of catch/effort data for the small scale fleet.
  • Lack of systematic information about interactions with ecosystem components
  • Lack of Management Plan for the fishery, including harvest rules
  • Lack of international coordination in regard to science and management


FIP Objectives;

  • Recollection of fisheries dependent and independent data to contribute to regional stock assessment in collaboration with other countries and IATTC
  • Evaluation of the risks to by-catch species through systematic collection of interactions information and periodic workshops
  • Approval of a participatory and effective management frame, including a Management Plan and, eventually, measures to mitigate ecosystem impacts.
  • Participation in international efforts to coordinate science and management for this stock


Progress Update:


December 2012

The need for a Guatemala mahi FIP was discussed at a Central and South American mahi Roundtable, organized by SFP, between representatives of Incredible Fish, Tasty Seafood and CeDePesca.


January-March 2013

Incredible Fish and Tasty Seafood sent letters to their providers in Guatemala encouraging them to become part of the FIP

SFP provided a sub-grant to initiate the project and CeDePesca-Guatemala made its first contacts with local suppliers and fishers to discuss the project. A first draft about the FIP is prepared by CeDePesca-Guatemala to be presented at the Mahi Roundtable in the Boston Seafood Show.

April-June 2013

In April, CeDePesca begun the fishery’s Gap Analyisis against the MSC standard, which included site visits to Puerto San Jose-Escuintla and meetings with the Technical Coordinator and DIPESCA (management agency) to get information from fishers and managers.

In May, meetings were held with artisanal fishers’ organizations to get them involved with the project: Asociación de Pescadores Artesanales del Puerto de San José-Escuintla (APASJO) and Asociación de Pescadores Artesanales (APABE).

In June, the Chairman of CeDePesca visited Guatemala and, together with local staff, held meetings with the national artisanal fishers federation (FENAPESCA) and with owners of the local exporting companies: Inmensamar, Pamypa and Palo Alto to get support for the FIP.

In June, CeDePesca-Guatemala participated at the FENAPESCA plenary to get approval of the workplan 2013-2015, as well as FENAPESCA’s inclusion s formal partner of the FIP.

July-September 2013

In July and August, several meetings were held with fishers, exporters, academics and authorities to present the first draft of the gap analysis and to get feedback on this and on the future workplan.

In September, the first version of the gap analysis and workplan was provided for review

October-December 2013

In October, the review of the gap analysis and the workplan continued.

In November, the first version of the FIP public report was prepared, but its publication was delayed until funds are secured to implement the workplan.

In December, a MoU between CEMA and CeDePesca started to be drafted in order to to collaborate on research activities.

In December, a meeting was held with CEMA staff to coordinate the elaboration of a research plan for the fishery according to OSPESCA’s and IATTC’s criteria.

In December, support was provided by CeDePesca to FENAPESCA to finish the elaboration of a triennial workplan including full participation on FIP activities.


January-March 2014

During January, a FIP meeting was planned to be held in Guatemala on February 27th.

In February, the FIP meeting was held with representatives of US importers, Guatemala exporters, artisanal fishers and CeDePesca.  The meeting resulted in an agreement regarding the FIP workplan and a minimum budget.  At the meeting, artisanal fishers committed themselves to collaborate with data collection.

In February, a meeting was held between FIP members and DIPESCA.  The workplan and the conclusions of the gap analysis were presented and the government representative committed herself to deliver exports per size data from the Ministry of Agriculture (MAGA), that in turn will be provided to a multinational group of scientists working on a mahi stock assessment. In the same way, DIPESCA will require WWF to provide the information collected as part of a former by-catch mitigation program.

In February, a meeting was held between FIP members and the Directorate of Marine Studies Centre and Aquaculture (CEMA-University of San Carlos).  In this meeting, it was agreed that the FIP would support the participation of researchers at an international scientific workshop to be held in December 2014 in Ecuador, as well as the integration of the University to the collection and interpretation of the mahi fishery data to be collected as part of the project.

 April-June 2014

Within this period, CeDePesca dedicated itself to coordinating negotiations and meetings between partners, an effort that culminated in the signature of the MOUs on June 12th.

In May, a letter of understanding was signed between the Center of Marine Studies (CEMA) and CeDePesca to collaborate on scientific activities for the FIP.

Within this quarter, three meetings were held with FENAPESCA and the mahi fishers’ leader to discuss details of their participation on FIP activities such as data collection. It is expected that training for skippers will start in August. CeDePesca is also supporting the formalization of the mahi fishers’ association.

By the end of the period, a second meeting was held with DIPESCA (in this case with the Deputy Director) in order to update him about the progress and future activities of the FIP. DIPESCA expressed its will to collaborate with the goals of the project and offered its support to collect information at landing points.

July-September 2014

Along the quarter, CeDePesca started providing training on data collection to 19 members of the Association of mahi fishers of “El Embarcadero” at Puerto San Jose and the first data collected was delivered by fishers. In the same way, another fishers’ association (El Cerrito, Puerto San Jose) became involved in the project and provided some historical records on fishing activities. They committed to keep providing this information.

Also, local companies Samaritana and Pesca SA started to provide data and some of their suppliers were trained on data collection.

In September, conversations were held with DIPESCA to ensure its participation at the IATTC’s International Scientific Workshop on mahi that is to be held in Ecuador.

October-December 2014

In October, a delegation from Guatemala attended the International Scientific Workshop on mahi in Ecuador. Two scientists, one from the Universitiy of San Carlos and the other from the government (DIPESCA) presented a report on Guatemalan mahi fishery. The expenses were covered by the FIP. This Workshop was organized by IATTC and attended by delegates from Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Guatemala, Costa Rica , El Salvador and Mexico and represented a major advance in regard to better knowledge of mahi’s biology and its fishery and a huge step forward for international coordination in regard to this highly migratory species.

In November, the database of the by-catch program held in the past by IATTC and WWF was found and started to be examined.

In November, the Legal Department at DIPESCA pronounced itself regarding the draft MOU sent by CeDePesca in October, requesting further information in order to proceed with a collaboration agreement.

In December, further support was given to El Cerrito Harbor Fishers Association in order to get legal recognition for its organization. This fishers association is supporting the FIP, providing information about their mahi landings.


January-March 2015

Since January, DIPESCA technical staff is taking biological samples of mahi landings with the collaboration of CeDePesca. This information is feeding the national database.

Along the quarter, fisher associations ASOPEACE and the Mahi Fishermen Association kept providing landings information to the FIP.  The second had, unfortunately, suspended this collaboration; but decided to resume it as of February 2015.

In February, a letter was sent to the Monterey Bay Aquarium highlighting some inconsistencies in the Seafood Watch report about the Guatemala mahi fishery.

In February, a new Action Plan for the FIP was discussed with partners. One of the new goals is to set up an On Board Observers Program to gather information on by-catch and fishing effort. CEMA (Center for Maritime Studies) is willing to send students as observers after being trained. FIP partners are looking for financial support for this Program.

In March, the Action Plan has been introduced to DIPESCA staff, including the Director. The officials showed interest and named a group of technical staff from the Artisanal Fishing, Research and Surveillance Departments to support the FIP.  At the same meeting, the Director of Fisheries expressed the utmost interest in the signature of the MOU to formalize this collaboration.

In March, the IATTC published the proceedings of the scientific meeting held in October 2014 (

April-June 2015

Along this quarter, main efforts were put on a) signature of an agreement between CeDePesca and DIPESCA in order to get the government as formal partner of the FIP, and b) continue data collection activities with fishers and DIPESCA.

July-September 2015

In July, after many verbal and written requests, the partners of the FIP sent a letter to the local company Mar de Cristal to announce that buying from them would stop because they were not honoring its commitment with the FIP.

After that, a meeting between Mar de Cristal and CeDePesca took place to clarify the situation but so far there were no news from this company.

Along the quarter, DIPESCA and CeDePesca continued with the information collection activities.

In preparation of the Second Technical International Meeting for mahi, to be held in October, the Guatemalan delegation is preparing a report.

It is important to note that this FIP has been working in the middle of a profound national political crisis where the President and Vice-president have been compelled to resign and new elections have taken place in September without a clear winner –a situation that is to be solved in a second elections round in October. This political uncertainty has made more difficult the FIP’s interactions with government officials.

October-December 2015

In October, the IATTC’s second technical meeting on mahi mahi took place in Lima, Peru. This meeting was organized by the IATTC, the Government of the Republic of Peru and the Peruvian Fisheries Research Institute (IMARPE).   Participants came from Peru, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador and Chile. Also at the workshop were NGOs such CeDePesca and WWF, and Peruvian fishers’ representatives. The aim of the meeting was to review the structure of the mahi-mahi stock, and to identify potential indicators of stock status in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. Participants brought updated presentations to the workshop, and biological aspects and assumptions on the structure of the population derived from population models were reviewed. Potential methodologies for assessing the mahi mahi in the Eastern Pacific Ocean were examined. IMARPE shared a stock assessment using different models that showed the stock in good condition. Also, the Guatemala mahi FIP presented advances in regards to data collection through the lecture of Eduardo Juarez, Research Director at DIPESCA, who was invited by CeDePesca with financial assistance by the FIP.

In November, DIPESCA agreed to produce a report on the Guatemalan mahi-mahi fishery, using statistical data that has been obtained to date.  CeDePesca is collaborating on this effort.  Also, talks have initiated to draft a management plan proposal for the fishery.

In December, the first draft report on the mahi fishery has been produced by DIPESCA and CeDePesca.  The complete report is expected to be ready for publication in mid-March 2016.


January-March 2016

During this period, sampling activities continue to be performed with DIPESCA, although climatological conditions are much variable.

In January, a meeting was held with Cooperativa Doraderos (COPES, fishers’ organization), that have shown interest in supporting the FIP.  In February, fishing logbooks from COPES were received.  Currently, a framework agreement is being discussed to formally include them into the project.

In March, a meeting was held with researcher Manuel Ixquiac, who will be supporting CeDePesca in the review of the draft fishery report that has been produced with DIPESCA.  During this quarter, a review of the database has been performed.

April-June 2016

In April, Mr. Gilberto Solares, fisher and vessel-owner, pledged his support to the FIP through data collection activities, and expressed his acceptance to carry observers onboard.

During this period, twelve fishers associated to Mr. Solares’ vessels were trained to perform observer actions, and two fishing trips were successfully monitored.

Click here for a detailed FIP Progress Update (PDF)