To meet the demand for FIPs and to foster ownership of conservation projects by the seafood industry, the Walton Family Foundation will work with its partners to create a fishery improvement fund which leverages philanthropic, industry and government dollars. The Fund will be managed by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF). WFF and its partners will develop a structure for matching contributions to the fund, establish selection criteria for the projects the fund will support, and develop indicators to evaluate the effectiveness of the funded project. WFF and its partners will also identify and recruit other contributors to the fund.
As part of its commitment, WFF will provide up to $150,000 per year for two years in seed money to the NFWF Fishery Improvement Fund. Darden Restaurants will also provide up to $250,000 to the Fund for the first two years of the project. As mentioned, the Honduran spiny lobster fishery will be the first fishery to access the fund.
In 2013, Darden asked FHI-360 to conduct a full-scale assessment of the Honduras spiny lobster fishery to shed light on where limited funding could best be invested. Once completed, Darden and WFF, along with guidance from NFWF and the New England Aquarium, outlined the following milestones:
- Complete stock assessment and management plan for the spiny lobster fishery which includes both the trap and artisanal fisheries
- Support the creation of a safe and sustainable exclusive-use, artisanal fishery along with market access for product and establish a data reporting program for the fishery
- Establish and implement tools and strategies for data collection and monitoring of fishing activity, using data for management, enforcement and traceability purposes (e.g. observers, spatial data, etc.), including, but not limited to: retention of undersized or berried females, incursion into MPAs, over quota catch and poaching, closed season fishing, and management of non-target species
The initial phase of the commitment will support a FIP in the Honduran lobster fishery. This FIP will provide a test case for the structure, funding and implementation of the fund. The items in the work plan will be completed collaboratively between the contributors to the fishery improvement fund and the fund's administrators (NFWF)
- Establish objectives and governance for the fund: Sept 1, 2013 (Complete: NFWF has outlined)
- Identify key milestones that need to be achieved to improve the environmental, economic and social sustainability of the Honduran lobster fishery: Sept. 15, 2013 (Complete: Milestones above)
- Determine if Partnership Management Organization is needed for on-going management in country and if so, determine necessary funding: Oct. 1, 2013
- Issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the fund to address key milestones: Oct. 31, 2013
- Identify and fund projects: Dec. 31, 2013
- Develop reporting indicators for the FIP and fund (beyond individual project metrics): Jun 30, 2014
- Recruit additional contributors to the fund: ongoing
- Develop transition plans for FIPs (to phase down existing FIPs and identify new FIPs to support): Dec 31, 2015
One of the leading threats to global fisheries is overfishing. To address this issue, most major seafood retailers and food service companies in North America, the UK and parts of Europe have made commitments to sourcing sustainable seafood. Additionally, the seafood supply chain has become an active player to help improve fisheries. One of the ways is through Fishery Improvement Projects, or FIPs.
A FIP is a multi-stakeholder effort to improve a fishery. These projects are unique because they utilize the power of the private sector to incentivize positive changes toward sustainability in the fishery. Participants may vary depending on the nature of the fishery and the improvement project, and may include stakeholders such as producers, nongovernmental organizations, fishery managers, government and members of the fishery's supply chain. Today, there are estimates upward of 400 needed to meet buyer demand for improving and certified fisheries. This commitment seeks to address the growing need for fishery improvements and find a way to close the funding gap so that the need for fishery improvements can be met.
The first FIP to be addressed will be the Spiny Lobster Fishery in Honduras. For the past several years, Darden Restaurants, in collaboration with USAID and many other stakeholders have invested significant time and resources to catalyze positive change. The spiny lobster fishery in Honduras is worth nearly $50 million in exports to the United States annually and provides direct employment to more than 4,000 people from coastal communities. It is Honduras' most valuable wild caught fishery. Yet, despite its economic importance, national management strategies and weak fisheries governance have made the fishery unsustainable. In addition, SCUBA dive fishing is one of the principal ways that lobster is caught and threatens divers, lobster stocks, and biodiversity.
WWF, NFWF, and Darden seek additional foundation, industry, and private dollars to invest in Fishery Improvement Projects worldwide. As the fund evolves beyond Honduras, additional geographies, species and issues will be targeted. Additional partners will be needed to bring financial resources, market influence, and expertise to solve challenges in global fisheries.