The range of non-profit organizations working on seafood projects can make for a confusing landscape. We wanted to lay out some of the main players on both the funding and project side to give you a better understanding of where resources are spent in seafood non-profit work today.

With any non-profit work, it’s important to first understand the funding.

In an article earlier this year, Inside Philanthropy clearly laid out the fishery funding landscape, which largely consists of three major US foundations contributing: the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, The David & Lucille Packard Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation. Here are some important takeaways:

  • The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation attempts to drive economic value in reform by shifting market demand. In 2015, over $11 million was granted to seafood market projects. Not straying far from the foundation’s high tech roots, many grant recipients focus on the interplay between technology and industry.
  • The David & Lucille Packard Foundation began focusing on consumer facing projects to shift seafood buying habits and now their focus is improving fishery management. Their short term mission: by 2022, one-third of wild caught seafood harvested is sustainable or caught in fisheries undergoing improvement.
  • And, lastly, the Walton Family Foundation approaches fishery improvement by contributing to market-based solutions and conservation programs. Catch share and certification programs are a primary focus. In 2014, the foundation contributed $39 million to marine conservation, $18 million of which was allocated to seafood sustainability projects.

Since non-profits largely depend on philanthropy from these major foundations, non-profit missions are in many ways aligned with the foundations. It creates an interesting dynamic in the ability of foundations to set the agenda. To avoid going too far down the non-profit rabbit hole, let’s look at just a handful of organizations we keep tabs on:

  • Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) works closely with industry to identify science based solutions for sustainable fishery development that considers both the environmental impact of seafood and the livelihoods of those who produce it. SFP pioneered the Fishery Improvement Project (FIP), which has since become a standard in the market for sustainable fishery progress. FIPs are designed to engage critical members of the supply chain to identify opportunities for improvements and commit to time-bound tasks within those improvement areas. FIPs are either ‘basic’ or ‘comprehensive’. The primary difference being comprehensive FIPs are intended to achieve MSC certification.
  • World Wildlife Fund (WWF) engages in marine conservation and focuses on projects that promote more sustainable fishing methods. In 1997, the organization established the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) to focus resources exclusively on fishery progress. MSC certification is now the most widely accepted eco-label for seafood products. WWF also supports the creation and expansion of Marine Protected Areas, science based solutions for highly targeted species like Tuna, fishing gear innovations through the international smart gear competition, industry engagement through partner programs and rights-based fishery management. WWF organizes much of its seafood efforts in Indonesia under Seafood Savers.
  • Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) developed a comprehensive set of standards to evaluate fishery sustainability. As noted above, MSC was established by WWF. The more than two dozen criteria touch environmental impact of the fishery, by-catch rates, management effectiveness and many other elements of a fishery. If a fishery passes the certification, it receives the official MSC certification moniker. The MSC certification highlights the efforts within a single fishery, communicating the fishery status to consumers.
  • Nature Conservancy lends its name to its mission. The organization’s reputation for conservation is balanced with the needs for the fishers on the water. Nature Conservancy advocates for access rights to fishing grounds for local fishers. The organization engages industry, management bodies and local fisher communities in their work towards more sustainable fishery development. Territorial Use Rights in Fisheries (TURFs), use rights that are granted to a local fishing associations in a given area, are central to Nature Conservancy’s fishery development work.
  • Oceana was founded as the first US-based non-profit exclusively focused on ocean advocacy at a global scale. Before its founding, less than 0.5% of resources spent by US environmental groups went toward ocean work. The organization focuses its efforts around specific, science-based campaigns. Most recently, North Atlantic and Bali Seafood International partnered with Oceana, Google and Skytruth on the Global Fishing Watch project. The traceability information collected by artisanal fishers in the NAI-BSI traceability program is now shared with the Global Fishing Watch team as the small-boat transparency solution.
  • Fishwise consults with food-retailers, distributors and suppliers on responsible practices for improvement across the seafood supply chain. The organization offers a range of services, from communications plans to vetting sources. Recently, Fishwise expanded its services to include traceability and social responsibility.
  • Monterrey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch was created as a consumer guide for those interested in buying seafood responsibly. The popularity of the guide spurred Monterrey Bay Aquarium to rate over 2,000 species. Seafood Watch has since expanded to also partner with major food-retailers, like Whole Foods, as a guide in seafood buying.

Ultimately, each non-profit and foundation is aiming for the same end result: sustainable fishery development. How each group plans to get there may vary, but it’s important to remember that it’s a holistic effort, a combination of community, science, policy and industry work, that will get us there.