The forgotten fish of Chile

Written by Tom Clynes Film by Leslie Von Pless

With its 4,000 miles of coastline, Chile relies heavily on its fisheries for economic growth and local livelihoods, as well as affordable and nutritious food. This video tells the story of the small-scale fishing communities in the Los Ríos region of southern Chile, who depend on an important but often overlooked fish species known as Pacific sierra (Thyrsites atun).

Scientists, fisheries managers and fishers themselves know relatively little about the sierra’s abundance and migration patterns. That lack of data has made it impossible to develop effective management plans, making sierra vulnerable to overfishing and putting the economies of coastal communities at risk as the Pacific’s waters warm. Local fishers say they need to travel farther out to sea to catch fish that are ever smaller.  

Now, fishers, conservationists and fisheries managers are working together in the region to gather reliable data that can guide effective management of sierra stocks. Environmental Defense Fund is outfitting fishers with a mobile-phone app that puts the ability to measure catches into the hands of fishers themselves. Local monitors can then compile the data for managers to use to create sustainable catch limits — ensuring that future generations can continue to benefit from a staple fish that’s cooked daily in many households up and down the Chilean coast. 

Hope for a warming planet

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