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Fair Trade Certified Wild Blue Shrimp: What does that label really mean?

By Kaleigh Jurgensmeyer
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From coffee and chocolate to beauty products and clothing — you've probably heard of Fair Trade Certified™ or may have seen their signature green and black seal on some of your favorite items — maybe even on the packaging of our Wild Caught Mexican Blue Shrimp from Del Pacifico, the first and only Fair Trade Certified wild shrimp company!

But what does it really mean when something is Fair Trade Certified? How does it actually help the workers?

Many people associate Fair Trade certification with safe working conditions and fair wages to farmers and workers — which is absolutely a huge part of it — but it goes far beyond the labor side of a product. It also addresses issues like gender equality, climate change, responsible resource management and sustainability, as well as empowers workers to actively improve their own communities through a Fair Trade Premium.

So when you choose Fair Trade Certified Del Pacifico Shrimp, for example, you know it was caught according to a rigorous set of social, environmental and economic standards that provide safe working conditions, uphold fundamental human rights, and help protect the planet. With every purchase, fishermen also earn an additional amount of money to invest in community projects like education and healthcare.

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Community

For our Fair Trade Certified shrimp, 5% of the wholesale price (the Fair Trade premium) goes back to the community to invest in their greatest needs. Members of the Del Pacifico cooperatives voted to use the Fair Trade Community Development Funds for some of the following projects:

  • Classroom Air Conditioning
  • Lifejackets and First Aid Kits for fishermen to have in their vessels
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  • Dock repair at the landing
  • Sail and vessel repair
  • Professional development training in processing of post-harvest product, sustainable fishing techniques, first aid, and best business practices for commercialization at the cooperative level
  • Community cleaning events (with kids and teenagers) - sites included docks, recreation piers and esplanades
  • Support to mangrove restoration projects (one of the highest carbon-sequestering trees in the world)
  • Support to community projects on fisheries sustainability — mainly training on best fishing practice and shrimp restocking
Children in the First Grade at Altata Primary School. Many of the fishermen's kids attend this school, and they voted to use some of their Fair Trade Premium to install air conditioning units in the classrooms.

As you'll read below, the fisherman and workers have lots of other projects in mind, too! What's great about this premium is that the community as a whole decides what to do with funds — so projects can vary from year to year and be completely tailored to them.

Fishermen and Workers

Fishing is a huge part of the community and many of the fishermen on Altata Bay have learned the trade through their families, with industry knowledge and expertise passed on from generation to generation. Over the years, they've seen a huge change to their way of life brought on by industrial fishing — but Fair Trade certification is helping to bring some of the power back to the small-scale operations by rewarding their sustainable fishing practices. It ensures workers receive a fair price for their catch — and gives them resources to help their families and community thrive for generations to come.

Meet a few of the Del Pacifico fishermen and workers below and learn more!

Gabriel Tiburcio García Inzunza, 59, has been fishing for 42 years.

"The biggest challenge we face is the preservation of the bay, and we are working hard to address that," says Gabriel. "What I like most about fishing is being out in the ocean, nothing beats the serenity of the ocean. It relaxes me."
"The Fair Trade Premium is a really good incentive for us, plus we feel like we are better supporting our community with this program. For example, this year we bought AC's for the local primary school. That was pretty special."

Nidia Aguilar Bojorquez, 30, has been working at the MHMR packing plant for 2 years.

Nidia has made a personal challenge to continue to learn and be promoted.  

"The best parts about my job are learning new things and collaborating with my team. I started at a low position in my first year, and now I'm supervising a section of the plant. I would like to continue to learn and hopefully get promoted again," says Nidia.

Victor Adán Contreras Armenta, 24, has been fishing since he was 14.

"Illegal fishing still continues to be the biggest issue we face. It's more controlled now, but there are still a few people doing it," says Victor.
"I joined a Fair Trade cooperative because I was excited that we would be able to earn more money. When we finally got the certification we were all really happy. I'd like to see the Fair Trade Premium put into sports, like the football field."

Brenda Guadalupe Prado Rodriguez, 31, is a quality control supervisor at the MHMR packing plant.

"Fair Trade is a great incentive to keep improving; it's a sign of trust. I enjoy working for a company that has this certification and high standards," says Brenda.

Francisco Guadalupe Valenzuela Duarte, 26, has been fishing for 9 years.

"My main concern with our industry is overfishing, we need to manage this bay properly so that we can continue to fish like we do now," says Francisco.
"The Fair Trade Premium is what motivates a lot of us, we can do good projects with it. I didn't know much about the Fair Trade program before, but as I learned more I became more interested. It's nice being rewarded for working properly. We want to use the Fair Trade Premium to build a collection of tools and spare parts for engines. There are always issues with engines and this would help us to be prepared."

María Rodriguez, 55, has been working for the cooperative for 8 years.

María separates blue from brown shrimp before it's delivered to the processing plant
"Shrimp basically supports the whole community. By doing this I've been able to educate my kids and give them more opportunities. As a parent I worry that my children will get in trouble.  Working in town is a good way to be close to them and make sure they lead a good life," says Maria.
"I want people in the United States to know that the quality and the taste of our shrimp are superior, and the way that it's caught is also very unique and environmentally friendly. Stripers don't cause all the damage the big boats do."

Environment

The bay where the Wild Blue Shrimp are caught is also home to an abundance of wildlife including red snapper, crabs, clams and aquatic plant species. In order to keep the industry prospering for years to come, it's essential to preserve the ecological balance of this area and use environmentally-responsible fishing practices.

One of the ways fishermen already protect the area is through the types of boats they use and their fishing methods.

Fisherman exclusively fish in small panga boats, which are built in the town of La Reforma and are constructed of fiberglass, resin and wood. The brightly-colored sails are typically handmade by the wives of the fishermen. Fishermen are able to harness the power of the winds and tide to drift their nets, which leads to very low fuel consumption and therefore a greatly reduced environmental impact. They also use a special, highly-selective net called a suripera to catch the shrimp, which has the lowest bycatch of any other method.

Panga boats in Altalta Bay
Fisherman place their fingers carefully on the net to feel the vibration that the shrimp make when caught in the net. By the intensity of the vibration fishermen can tell when it's time to pull the net up.

In addition to the sustainable catch methods, Fair Trade fishery standards mandate that 30 percent of the Community Development Funds are spent on environmental projects. The funds are going toward multiple bay clean-ups, including underwater clean-up by local certified divers and shoreline clean-up with help from the entire community and local schools. Learn more about how the community is working to clean up Altata Bay here.

Fair Trade also third-party audits fisheries to review the resource management of the fishery and ensure that it is managed legally and responsibly. This includes documentation, data collection, stock assessments, biodiversity/ecosystems protections, and proper waste management.

For a detailed list of requirements needed for Fair Trade Certification, check out their Fisheries Standard Overview.


Ultimately, your purchase is powerful — and when you choose Fair Trade Certified Wild Mexican Blue Shrimp from Del Pacifico, you're voting with your dollar to a support a responsible business that empowers fisherman and protects the environment. This shrimp also happens to be some of the cleanest, freshest and most delicious around — shop our Fair Trade Certified Shrimp now and try it for yourself!


All images and photography by Fair Trade USA.


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Wild-caught and sustainably-raised Seafood

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