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The Vibrant Oceans Initiative Sparks an International Effort to Reform Fisheries

“If we are going to carry on growing, and we will, because no country is going to forfeit its right to economic growth, we have to find a way of doing it sustainably.” – Tony Blair

Our world is built around money. It’s a simple fact of modern society. We need money to eat, for mortgages or rent, to provide for our families…simply put, we need money to survive. Money is needed to grow and develop homes, businesses, economies, and countries. Sometimes we struggle to make even the bare minimum, making everything else secondary – including the environment and the concept of sustainability.

There are numerous fisheries today that source seafood from our waters with extremely unsustainable methods. There is a blatant disregard for ocean health, even in the face of disappearing fish populations, mountains of bycatch, and unmistakable habitat destruction. The drive behind this is money – where there is a consumer demand, there is a profit to be made. Fishermen cannot simply stop fishing, for they would not make any money. Nor is it easy to initiate the move towards sustainability, as that often takes time and funding that developing countries, small-scale fishermen, and commercial fleets do not have.

Fortunately, a growing number of people are beginning to recognize that not only is the environment being damaged, but there is a rising interest for ethically sourced seafood.

Vibrant Oceans

The organization Bloomberg Philanthropies has committed $53 million over five years to promote reforms to boost fish populations in Brazil, the Philippines, and Chile. To date, it is the largest grant of its kind, intended to internationally reform fishery management. It is also the first time that a private capital financing strategy will be integrated into such a reform effort.

The program – aptly titled the Vibrant Oceans Initiative – will focus on both small scale, near-shore fishing, and commercial offshore fishing. Vibrant Oceans will be facilitating a partnership between three groups: Oceana, Rare, and EKO Asset Management. These organizations will work with the local fishing industries in these countries to research and employ sustainable methods and establish proper management, while financially rewarding local fishermen and industrial fleets to make the transition to better fishing practices.

The ultimate goal of Vibrant Oceans is to revitalize 7% of the world’s fisheries, ensuring a stable food supply and source of income for millions of people. The $53 million is an investment in the future of our oceans and this partnership will hopefully serve as a model for future reform efforts. Oceana predicts that better fisheries management could provide a daily mean to an additional 250 million people by 2050. This is tremendous – considering many of our wild populations of fish are globally on the decline.

Taking action now

In the coming years there will be a drastic increase in the need for sustainable sources of seafood as our population grows. Rather than waiting until our wild fisheries are completely depleted, we must take action now. It is wonderful to see an organization like Bloomberg Philanthropies provide an incredible amount of financial backing to reform our fishing industry. For decades we have decimated our oceans’ fish populations, placing our wild-caught seafood supply on a precarious balance of nature vs humans. Now, many people are taking notice and finally providing the one thing that fisheries need most – money to reform themselves.

Demand is rising and fish populations are declining – but fisheries can rebound if they are properly managed. The seafood industry is a vital source of food and income for billions of people worldwide. This money will provide the initiative to create proper management techniques and the incentive for fishermen to move towards sustainability. If overfished populations show rejuvenation, healthy fisheries will continue to feed and support our population.

Without such immense financial assistance, unsustainable fisheries will simply continue their current methods and eventually wipe out certain populations. This investment will provide fishermen in the target countries with the means to not only sustain themselves, but also thrive as the global market awakens to the many benefits of sustainability. Consumer demand will continue to rise, profiting these fisheries much more than their current methods. We have witnessed how devastated fisheries – such as the Atlantic sea scallop – can rebound and with proper management strategies to become extremely profitable as a sustainable industry.

It would be lovely if everyone could work immediately and efficiently towards the goal of having a global sustainable fishing industry. However, in a world driven by profit margins it’s difficult to walk up to a fishermen and tell him that he needs to abandon his livelihood or change his methods because they are harming the ocean. That fishermen has a boat to maintain, a crew to pay, and a family to feed. Developing sustainable fishing methods and proper management can be a monumental task, and often requires an immense amount of money.

 Many fisheries are in need of transformation

I’ve often mentioned how important it is to support sustainable fisheries that are already established. If everyone only bought purely sustainable seafood, it would be amazing for our oceans. But it also would leave other fisheries without the flow of income needed to adapt. This grant provides that income, giving these fisheries the opportunity to transform themselves. We must support sustainability while encouraging transformation. Pucci Foods strives to provide our customers with seafood that protects the health of our oceans. Join us in envisioning a better future for our world’s fisheries.

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