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Oceana Magazine Spring 2014: Supporter Spotlight

Richard Bowditch

Patricia Harris


Chief Executive Officer, Bloomberg Philanthropies

Bloomberg Philanthropies supports a variety of causes. Why ocean conservation?

At Bloomberg Philanthropies, we aim to find and support solutions to unmet needs across the world—and specifically invest in initiatives that are poised to make the greatest impact for the greatest number of people. There is no question that the oceans are one of our most crucial natural resources. Not only are they key to maintaining environmental ecosystems, they are critical to local and global economies. More than three billion people around the world rely on fish for food or income, putting pressure on both small and large-scale fishers to keep up with demand. As a result, overfishing is jeopardizing the future of this food and income source—and threatening our whole ecosystem. If we don’t take action now to properly manage our oceans, we could face permanent destruction of our marine resources, would not only bring fishing-based economies to a screeching halt, but endanger so many species of life—including us.

Can you tell us more about the Vibrant Oceans Initiative and what it seeks to accomplish?

The Bloomberg Philanthropies Vibrant Oceans initiative is a $53 million investment over 5 years to revitalize the world’s oceans and boost fish populations. As one of the top five global ocean funders, we are committed to protecting our oceans and ensuring that future generations will be able to enjoy this exquisite and vital resource. One of the biggest ways we can achieve this is to combat marine habitat destruction and overfishing.

Currently, demand for fish is rising while fish catches are declining, which means that more fish are being caught than can be naturally replaced. The good news for us is that more than 90 percent of the world’s fish is caught by just 30 countries. This means that by focusing our efforts in a few key areas, we can make a big impact on global conservation. To this end, the Vibrant Oceans initiative seeks to introduce fishery management reforms in three countries that make up 7 percent of the world’s fish catch—Brazil, the Philippines and Chile. Our groundbreaking approach will help introduce management reforms in both industrial- and small-scale fisheries. This two-pronged strategy is the first of its kind, and will help ensure a comprehensive and systemic change to the way fish are caught worldwide. This could mean major progress for both ocean health and fishery yields—which is good for both our economy and our environment. What’s even more encouraging is that data tells us that better management of fisheries can reverse declining catches in as few as five years, so it’s a change that we can see within our lifetimes!

Why did the foundation choose to partner with Oceana?

In all of our initiatives, we look for strong partners to help us develop and implement bold ideas that can make a big impact. When we first set out to tackle overfishing and ocean management, we looked to those who were already doing tremendous work in the field. As the largest international advocacy group working to protect the world’s oceans, Oceana was a natural choice and we immediately reached out to them to help us take on this issue. Oceana is a leader in ocean protection, and we are thrilled to work with them as well as with our other amazing partners, Rare and EKO Asset Management, to combat over-fishing, boost fish populations, and help secure a vital food and income source for generations to come.

Can you tell us about your personal connection to the Ocean? And, Mayor Bloomberg’s?

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am an avid scuba diver! I have always loved the ocean and marine life, because not only is it beautiful, it is so critical to our environment, our economies, and our culture. That being said, the Vibrant Oceans initiative is close to my heart. And Mike Bloomberg recognizes the major role the oceans play in our global environment, economy, and public health. As he continues to drive real progress in these areas, he is excited about what the Vibrant Oceans initiative could mean for global sustainability, health, and economic growth.

We understand that the Foundation and Bloomberg have large aquaria in the offices, is there a special connection between fish and the foundation?

Fish tanks have become a hallmark of any Bloomberg venture! From Bloomberg L.P. to City Hall to Bloomberg Philanthropies, the fish tanks have become an essential element to our offices—here and around the world. Bloomberg Philanthropies’ fish tank is inspirational and sustainably sourced.

Do you feel hopeful about the future of the oceans?

Absolutely! With initiatives such as Vibrant Oceans currently underway, we’re at a point where can make a measurable impact on ocean health. A big reason for this is that we are just beginning to understand what it means for the big picture. While ocean protection was usually considered to be solely a conservation issue, information about its economic and public health impacts are now coming to light. This means that more industries have become stakeholders in the protection of marine resources, bringing urgency and momentum to this issue. Moreover, data has revealed that targeted actions can have a real and significant effect—and if we act now, we can help protect our oceans and those who depend on them.

Is there anything else you want to tell readers of Oceana?

Through your passion, advocacy, and support, you’re the ones who are helping to make a difference to feed people in a more sustainable way and protect our marine life. Congratulations on the incredible work!