The Power of Partnership: Future of Fish + ABALOBI

When it comes to tackling the social and environmental issues of our time, no one organization has all the expertise and capacity needed to solve these complex challenges alone. But together, we can move mountains—or, in the case of overfishing, turn the tide.

A recent Partnership Agreement between Future of Fish and ABALOBI builds on this ethos, and seeks to drive large-scale systems change to benefit coastal communities and ocean ecosystems. Together, we hope to combine our strengths across technology, creative financing, systems design, and community engagement to support fishers around the world to achieve social, environmental, and economic sustainability.

Our first joint project has already begun in Chile. This initiative aims to bring the ABALOBI fisher-driven mobile app platform to South America for the first time, in order to support technological innovation in some of the country’s small-scale fishing communities.

We asked Serge Raemaekers from ABALOBI and Momo Kochen from Future of Fish to share some thoughts on the new partnership, the new project, the potential impacts of combining efforts, and the power of collaboration.


We are so pleased this MOU is now in place between our two organizations. Can you tell us more about this initial project we are working on together?

ABALOBI: The partnership offers a unique opportunity to combine the systems approach of Future of Fish with the technological and community engagement fisheries capacity work of ABALOBI to pilot and test solutions that could scale to create systemic change for coastal fisheries in the Latin American region. The first pilot is set to occur in Chile with the fishers in the coastal communities of San Antonio and Duao. In this project, a digital marketplace, with a focus on product quality, will be underpinned by a fisher-driven traceability system.

Future of Fish: Broadly, we see this collaboration with Abalobi as an opportunity to bring together two complementary approaches to improving community-focused, bottom-up improvements in small-scale and artisanal fisheries. In Chile, we have been focusing on supporting the commercialization plans to connect fish products from several Chilean caletas (fishing villages) to open-air markets, recently shifting to an online marketplace that facilitates direct sales of legal, traceable products directly to consumers. We see the opportunity of working with Abalobi as a way of taking this to the next step of creating electronic data for fisheries, traceability, and trade, and opening up the opportunity for fishers to sell their products through an open, online platform.

Abalobi has a proven system, so we get the benefit of trialing a tested app in a fishery where we already have contacts, relationships, and experience. We hope this allows our project to be more efficient, create new opportunities, and test the new partnership while bringing additional benefits to our partner communities!


Images of the ABALOBI app, showing the interface that users see, and a sample of the “species caught” tracking tool.

What problem does this project seek to address? Why is it important, and why now?

Future of Fish: Supporting fishers to develop secure supply chains founded on traceability and fair market value is always a critical component of our work. For Chilean fishers, the ability to maintain a regular income has been heavily impacted by COVID’s disruption of typical supply chains. We turned to Abalobi to address this concern in a way that is safe, sustainable, and responsive to COVID-19 concerns while laying the foundation for a longer-term technology solution that helps support more equitable and traceable supply chains.

ABALOBI: The ABALOBI platform has been co-designed with small-scale fishers in South Africa and has assisted these fishers in developing a transparent value chain for fully traceable seafood products. The Future of Fish team has identified an opportunity for this approach to be shared with artisanal fishers in Chile to address similar challenges and ABALOBI is excited to be able to test its technology platforms in a Latin American context.

Why did you choose to partner with each other?

Future of Fish: ABALOBI’s successes in South Africa, their co-design methodologies for development, and pre-existing, easily transferable, and applicable apps and technology platforms made them the perfect partner for this project. Obviously, every organization has its niche, and cannot be expected to cover all aspects of fisheries improvement work alone — so what better way to enhance the impact and reach of our work than to partner with an organization that has a similar vision and values as ourselves?

ABALOBI: The Future of Fish development model of capturing value in small-scale fisheries and re-directing it towards supporting sustainable growth within fishing communities is aligned with the ABALOBI vision of thriving, equitable, and sustainable small-scale fisheries. This partnership offers an opportunity to learn about the Future of Fish model and to pilot the implementation of ABALOBI technologies in the context of this approach.

Hake landing on the beach in Duao, Chile. Once it is landed it will be entered into the fisher app, and the fisher will have the option to display this fish on the ‘electronic marketplace’, where it can be viewed and purchased by the vendors or other buyers also linked to the app.

Are there any particular elements of this partnership and project that you’re especially excited about?

ABALOBI: The COVID-19 pandemic has forced ABALOBI to address the challenge of working with partners remotely due to travel restrictions being in place to prevent the spread of the virus. ABALOBI engaging remotely with the artisanal fishers of Chile is made possible by an established Future of Fish in-country team, and as such, this project offers an exciting opportunity to learn how to pilot and implement technology that could benefit artisanal fishers without ABALOBI being present in-country whilst doing so.

What impact are you hoping this partnership and work will have?

ABALOBI: ABALOBI hopes that this joint project will catalyze positive momentum in the fishing communities of San Antonio and Duao and that the technology implemented can contribute to building the resilience of these communities to the many stressors they face. At the same time, the envisioned impact is that positive market incentives, underpinned by a robust traceability system, can help build a sustainable business model that is community-driven.

Future of Fish: We want to create a system where fishers can become more technologically savvy to support their income, particularly in the face of future government data and compliance requirements. Additionally, the ability of small-scale fisheries (SSF) to diversify their sales and secure fair prices is a challenge we see all over the world. In Chile, middlemen-driven hake supply chains limit the ability of fishers to respond to changing dynamics. We see the move to transparent, shorter chains supported by an independent third party (via the technology platform), as setting the enabling conditions for long-term resilient supply chains: having access to this technology gives fishers greater capacity to independently pivot in times of crisis. By testing this solution with two caletas in Chile, we hope to continue to refine both the business and tech model so that it can scale to other fisheries in Chile, and beyond.

Anything else you’d like to add?

ABALOBI: The MOU signed between Future of Fish and ABALOBI envisions “…a partnership that leverages the partners’ expertise in supply chain technology and innovation, creative finance models, fisheries science and capacity building, and systems approaches to solve the complex challenges facing small scale fisheries and coastal communities in Latin American and around the world.” This bold and ambitious goal is an exciting journey that these two organizations are embarking on and will hopefully result in a series of projects being jointly implemented that will benefit small-scale fishing communities.

Future of Fish: Ditto, FOF hearts Abalobi! We’re excited to see what we can do together.

In Chile, the app will be tested initially in the fishing communities of Duao and San Antonio. We created fisher profiles for several fishers in these locations, including information on the fisher, their vessels, and the locations they fish in and from. These digital profiles will also be set up for the open-air market vendors, allowing transactions to happen between both parts of the chain through the app.

Published Aug 20, 2020