Chilean National Benthic Resources Territorial Use Rights for Fishing Program

Chile’s highest value mollusc species, a sea snail known as loco, is very important to the country’s artisanal fishermen who have been harvesting it for decades. Due to the development of an export market for loco in the mid-1970s, the species became heavily overfished and stocks began to rapidly decline. From the early 1980s to the early 1990s, managers implemented many conventional management approaches including season limits and catch limits in an attempt to curb overfishing. None of these approaches were successful.

Primarily to address the rapid decline of loco, the government implemented a General Fishing Law in 1991 that requires fishermen to harvest loco within an established TURF. The Chilean National Benthic Resources TURF System is now among the largest area-based catch shares in the world. Through the system, established groups of fishermen from sanctioned “caletas,” or coves, are granted exclusive access to publicly owned benthic resources through an area-based concession. Loco must be managed within a TURF, while numerous other species are also eligible for exclusive use rights within the system.

More than 10 years after implementation, the catch share is meeting many of its goals. Landings have increased as much as five-fold, the mean sizes of individual organisms have increased, catch per unit effort is up and some fishing organizations have established no-take zones to enhance spawning within their TURF.