Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the most recent issue of Oceana magazine. Click here to download a copy and read the full-length article.
Forty percent of the world’s seafood catch: That’s more than 25 million metric tons of fish, lobster, and other seafood hauled in from the world’s oceans each year and deposited on the docks of countries like Peru, the Philippines, and the United States. Seven countries and the EU are responsible for this share of the global seafood catch, and Oceana is now working to protect and restore our oceans in each and every one of them.
A $10 million grant from the Wyss Foundation over the next five years will secure Oceana’s expansion into Canada and Peru — bringing Oceana’s science-based fisheries management strategy to the countries responsible for nearly 40 percent of the world’s catch by weight. Wyss’s grant is the foundation’s first major investment in ocean conservation, and it builds on earlier grants from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Canadians Peter and Diana Thomson, and other donors — all dedicated to saving the oceans to feed the world.
“After decades of declines among the world’s fisheries, new science and smarter policies have proven that the productivity and health of our oceans can in fact be restored,” said philanthropist Hansjörg Wyss. “With innovative management strategies, more and more fishing communities are rebuilding fish stocks, sustaining a way of life for future generations, and restoring the ocean’s ability to feed the world.”
Founded by Hansjörg Wyss, the Wyss Foundation is dedicated to supporting innovative, lasting solutions that improve lives, empower communities, and strengthen connections to the land. The foundation is particularly well-known for its work to conserve lands in the Western United States for public use and access.
The vast region where the Wyss Foundation has traditionally worked is best known for its natural beauty — jagged mountains, dense pine forests, colorful deserts, rolling grasslands — and the variety of national parks, monuments, and refuges designed to protect them. But even though these places are located in the middle of a vast continent, thousands of miles from the ocean, the principles behind their conservation echo the principles of ocean conservation.
Like the protection of public lands and forests, wise ocean policies can help preserve and restore a publicly shared good. Just as American sportsmen led the effort onshore to conserve wildlife habitat to improve hunting and angling opportunities, fishermen are among those working to protect marine habitat to improve fish yields.
“Healthier oceans can provide sustainable food supplies to help feed the world,” says Andrew Sharpless, Oceana’s chief executive officer. “Wild seafood is a source of healthy protein that could feed millions of people without further degrading the environment.”
With better management, the global fish catch could increase by up to 40 percent from current levels, according to a 2012 study in the journal Science. If we can halt the decline and rebuild ocean abundance, we will be able to feed 700 million people a healthy seafood meal each day, according to Oceana. Seafood requires no land, little to no fresh water, and generates little to no climate-changing gases, unlike the vast amounts of methane created by cows and other livestock.
But for seafood to be a viable food source for the future, we need to fix how we fish and reverse decades of decline and poor fisheries management. Canada and Peru are among the 30 countries that control more than 90 percent of the world’s wild fish catch. By supporting locally developed, science-based policy reforms within these countries, Oceana believes that it is possible to restore the global oceans in a short amount of time. With Wyss’s help, Oceana will restore fisheries in the seven countries and the EU that catch nearly 40 percent of the world’s seafood.
Through the Wyss Foundation grant, in addition to support from other funders including the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, William H. Donner Foundation, Schad Foundation, Krupp Foundation, J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, and the Echo Foundation, Oceana will support scientists and policy experts in Canada and Peru who are implementing three strategies that are proven to recover fisheries around the world: setting science-based catch limits; reducing bycatch, or the incidental catch of non-targeted animals; and protecting important marine habitat.
“Wyss is bringing Oceana to Canada and Peru — one country is a historic player in global fisheries, the other has been the largest fishing nation in the entire world,” says Sharpless. “Applying science-based fisheries management in these two countries will be a tremendous step towards saving the oceans to feed the world.”
The Wyss Foundation’s grant is complimented by the support of other funders, including the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, William H. Donner Foundation, Schad Foundation, Krupp Foundation, J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, Echo Foundation, and other funders, that are already bringing Oceana’s science-based fisheries management strategy to the countries that are responsible for nearly 40 percent of the world’s catch by weight. Hirshfield and Sharpless say that they are currently hiring teams of local Canadians and Peruvians to lead campaigns in each country.
“Working in countries that control nearly 40 percent of the world’s catch by weight,” says Sharpless, “Oceana is poised to make a big impact.”
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