Distribution of economic returns in small-scale fisheries for international markets: A value-chain analysis
Small-scale fishers are often believed to receive marginal earnings for seafood relative to other value- chain actors but proportionate incomes across different traded species are rarely compared. This study compares value chains for 15 species of sea cucumbers between Fiji and Kiribati using data collected on sale prices of dried products (bêche-de-mer) from fishers to middlemen and exporters, export prices and market retail prices in China. Pacific islanders comprised almost all fishers, but represented only some middlemen and few exporters. Proportional increases in prices along the value chains differed greatly among sea cucumber species and between countries. Fishers' earnings varied greatly among species. The relative share of the end market value they received was negatively related to product end-market value; on average 50% of the end retail value for the lowest-value species but < 10% for the highest-value species. Most fishers lacked information about market prices. The gross markup of exporters differed greatly between the two countries. Downstream actors reaped increasingly higher proportions of the product value for higher value species. Variation in sale prices between countries and fishers for the same product indicates a potential for higher earnings to fishers. Improved transparency of prices to fishers could empower them to negotiate higher prices, especially for more valuable species. Upgrading of value-chain governance, e.g. through fisher cooperatives or auction systems, could improve efficiency and fisher incomes, potentially reducing the need for high fishing rates. Such interventions will benefit from understanding the value-chain patterns among different species harvested in multispecies fisheries.