Major firms back WWF-led plan to unlock $100m of finance for sustainable fisheries

Major fish feed companies including Cargill and Skretting are supporting the creation of a new innovative financing model for fisheries which could unlock $100m+ for sustainability efforts in the sector by the end of the decade.

Major firms back WWF-led plan to unlock $100m of finance for sustainable fisheries

Image: WWF Peru, Christian Zelaya

The financing model was unveiled on Wednesday (26 April) by NGO WWF and impact investment advisory Finance Earth. Called the Fisheries Improvement Fund, the fund will provide upfront funding to enable the creation of Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPS).

FIPs are multi-stakeholder initiatives that see fisheries making changes including procuring more sustainable feed, ending overfishing, conserving and restoring biodiversity and reducing bycatch. Fisheries ultimately strive to gain certification from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

Typically, FIPs involve local government, NGOs, scientists, fishery managers, fishers and companies upstream and downstream in the fishery’s value chain. FIPs must track and publicly report progress every six months.

WWF has been collaborating within new FIPs since 2010. Partners have included Thai Union, Mars and Bolton Group.

In launching the new fund, WWF and Finance Earth are responding to the fact that fisheries may struggle to set up a FIP in the first instance – or to realise the financial benefits of implementing a FIP in the long-term.

The fund will include money from participating fish feed companies, such as Cargill and Skretting, which will commit to a volume-based fee on a long-term basis. It is also being supported by purchasers of fish, including Sodexo and Mars Petcare, and some philanthropic bodies, such as the Walmart Foundation. This funding will help fisheries cover the upfront cost of FIP implementation.

Through to 2030, the aim is to unlock at least $100m for the fund.

“Blending different sources of capital together,” WWF said in a statement, should increase the overall availability of funding that fisheries can access for recovery-related work.

One pilot fishery has already been selected to receive the first allocations under the fund. The as-yet-unnamed facility will receive support with upfront costs, plus ongoing fees. It is hoped that learnings from this pilot can inform a wider rollout.

Finance Earth’s co-founder and managing director James Mansfield called the find a “breakthrough initiative” providing a “unique opportunity” in the field of blue finance.

“At scale, this approach has the capacity to attract a range of investors from the public and private sector to support fishery improvement worldwide,” he said.

Cargill’s aqua nutrition president Helene Ziv-Douki added: “We see a clear and compelling business case for companies to invest in the long-term viability of their marine ingredients used for aquaculture products, especially as aquaculture production continues to grow exponentially.

“The industry needs to work to support sourcing from more sustainable fisheries through active engagement. Improvement in fisheries will reduce supply chain volatility and mitigate supply chain risk while enhancing business value across the sector.”

WWF estimates that more than three billion people regularly eat fish and/or seafood. Increasing demand for these foods has contributed to a marine population decline of 70% since 1970, with one-third of fish stocks currently being over-exploited.

The MSC stated earlier this month that mackerel caught in the northeast of the Atlantic is no longer a more sustainable choice, adding it to its “fish to avoid” list. The organisation is calling on governments including the UK, Norway, Iceland and the EU to collect more data on stocks.

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