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24 groups supporting sustainable fishing and reforming the industry

Seafood consumption is up — but so are overfishing, water pollution and ocean warming. Here's who's fighting that.

Fisherman fishing for mussels

A fisher fishing for mussels.

Demand for fish is on the rise worldwide — fish consumption has spiked 122 percent in the last three decades, according to the United Nations.

At least 3 billion people rely on seafood as a primary source of protein, according to the World Wildlife Fund. And the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that nearly 60 million people make a living fishing or farming fish.

But the world’s fisheries face various threats. Overfishing, illegal fishing, climate change, habitat loss and pollution have halved the world’s fish population since 1970. The FAO says that today 90 percent of the world’s stocks are overfished or depleted.

Meanwhile, unsustainable fish farming systems can leach chemicals, waste and uneaten fish feed that harm marine ecology and sometimes infect fish

"It’s easy to ignore our oceans," Mark Zimring, director of large scale fisheries at The Nature Conservancy, tells Food Tank. "So much of what happens, happens underneath the water." But, he continues, "we have got to invest in managing these systems for resilience because they are critical, ultimately, to our wellbeing and the global biodiversity."

Mark Kaplan, founder of (en)visible — which uses technology to trace sustainable seafood supply chains — says industry reform is well within reach and hinges only on a demand for change. "We know that there is nothing preventing the conversion of non-traceable supply chains to traceable, other than the people involved not being willing to do it," he tells Food Tank. 

Fortunately, groups across the globe — from international agencies to local fisheries — are fighting to keep waters clean and bountiful, while also bolstering local economies, empowering marginalized communities and helping feed the world. In celebration of World Fisheries Day, Food Tank is highlighting 24 of these organizations.

1. Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust, United States

The Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust (ASFT) is a nonprofit based in Sitka, Alaska on a mission to support local fishers, promote sustainable practices, and revitalize fishing communities. In a joint effort with Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, ASFT has provided nearly 490,000 free seafood meals to families through children’s programs, food pantries, women’s shelters, and tribal organizations since March.

ASFT subsidiary Alaskans Own recently partnered with Northline Seafoods to donate 45,000 pounds of Bristol Bay sockeye salmon to Alaska Native villages experiencing record-low salmon harvests.

2. Catch Together, United States

Catch Together is a Massachusetts-based grant program that supports local fishers in Maine, the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska and more. The organization hopes to bolster fishers’ businesses and communities by restoring fish stocks, offering fishers direct financial support and financial lessons, and building a nationwide network of permit banks — which give small-scale fishers the right to harvest a fair number of fish. Catch Together plans to invest between $25 million and $50 million over the next three years.

3. Center for Oceans, international

Center for Oceans is an initiative by the nonprofit Conservation International that works to encourage sustainable fishing practices, inform global policy, restore coastal ecosystems, defend human rights in the seafood industry and provide communities with nutrient-rich foods. Center for Oceans partners with 150 global organizations to protect 2.3 million square kilometers of the sea, and has helped implement sustainable fishing practices across 25 coastal fisheries in 13 countries.

4. Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, United States

For more than 35 years, the Indigenous-led Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission in Portland, Oregon, has supported fishers in the Yakama, Warm Springs, Umatilla and Nez Perce tribes.

The commission is guided by four goals: to restore the populations of salmon, lamprey and sturgeon in the Columbia River Basin; protect tribal fishing rights; share cultural traditions; and provide fishers in its four member tribes with the tools they need to make a living. The commission has helped restore more than 660 miles of stream in the past decade.

5. Confédération Africaine des Organisations de Pêche Artisanale, Africa

Confédération Africaine des Organisations de Pêche Artisanale, or the African Confederation of Artisanal Fishing Organizations (CAOPA), is an association representing fisheries in Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mauritania and Senegal. CAOPA advocates for policies that support sustainable fishing in Africa, as a means to eradicate food security and poverty, and pushes for international initiatives that address climate change and climate-related disasters, which tend to be concentrated in fishing regions.

6. Coastal Culinary Academy, United States

The Maine-based Coastal Culinary Academy is a seafood-specific culinary school founded by sustainable seafood expert, educator and former chef Barton Seaver. Seaver’s online course, Seafood Literacy, takes a deep dive into sustainable seafood practices — from fishing to dining. Seaver also has authored seven seafood-centric books and delivered a great number of lectures, seminars and interviews.

7. Conselho Pastoral dos Pescadores, Brazil

Conselho Pastoral dos Pescadores (CPP), or The Fishermen’s Pastoral Council, seeks to preserve the economic, cultural and social benefits of artisanal fishing in Brazil. CPP’s grassroots movement Movimento de Pescadores e Pescadoras Artesanais (Portuguese), or Movement of Fishermen and Artisanal Fishermen, networks fishers across the country, and the group’s Campanha pelo Território Pesqueiro (Portuguese), or Fishing Territory Campaign, safeguards community fishing territories. Additionally, CPP’s Nem um Poço a Mais! (Portuguese), or Not a Well Too Many, lobbies against the expansion of offshore oil infrastructure, such as pipelines and wells.

8. (en)visible, United States

Founded by Mark Kaplan, (en)visible uses blockchain and other technology to let businesses and consumers track seafood across every step of the supply chain — from producer to grocer — and ensure seafood is responsibly sourced. Kaplan says traceable, sustainable seafood comes as a cost-benefit to conventional seafood as consumers continue to look for more information about their products.

9. Global Salmon Initiative, international

Global Salmon Initiative (GSI) is a coalition of CEOs committed to upholding sustainable salmon farming practices. The coalition’s Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certification is lauded as one of the world’s most comprehensive certification programs. To receive ASC certification, fish farmers must adhere to more than 500 compliance standards, spanning from sustainable fish feed and disease management to social responsibility. GSI has certified over 200 member farms to date.

10. HATCH, Hawai’i, Norway, Singapore

The venture capital firm HATCH invests in innovative, sustainable aquaculture startups. Through its accelerator program, HATCH offers companies $130,000 in funding and access to more than 100 mentors. The company has provided seed funding to startups in multiple sectors — nutrition, marine health, biotech, technology, production and alternative seafood.

11. Marine Stewardship Council, United Kingdom

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is a nonprofit certification organization that works with fisheries, grocery stores and restaurants to set sustainable fishing standards. MSC-certified companies are independently assessed and rated by where they fish, how much unwanted fish they catch, how they’re impacting marine habitats, whether they can trace their products to their source and more.

12. National Family Farm Coalition, United States

The National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC) mobilizes family farmers, fishers, and ranchers to advocate for fair wages, environmental reform, food sovereignty, and an end to corporate control of the food system. NFFC aims to elevate local communities and support a safe, healthy environment. The grassroots organization represents 300 member organizations and 400,000 fishers across rural America.

13. Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance, United States

The Massachusetts-based Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance (NAMA) is a fisher-led organization that advocates for fair wages and working conditions, equitable access to nutrition, healthy ecosystems, racial equality in the food system and an end to corporate takeover in the fish market. NAMA also supports the Fish Locally Collaborative, a network that connects more than 400,000 fishers, fish workers, seafood processors and organizations across the United States, Canada, Latin America and Europe.

14. NutriFish1000, Africa and Asia

The NutriFish1000 initiative gives low-income women in rural Asia and Africa the tools they need to farm a diverse array of small, indigenous fish. The goal of the campaign is to provide reliable, macronutrient-dense food for women and children in their first 1,000 days of life, while keeping women in control of food production. Backed by the World Bank and United Nations, NutriFish1000 projects have been launched in six countries, including India and Bangladesh.

15. Oceana, international

Oceana is an international nonprofit dedicated to ocean restoration. Oceana conducts its own research and makes policy recommendations to nations around the world. Since its inception in 2001, Oceana has protected nearly 4 million square miles of ocean and won more than 225 policy victories — from stopping bottom trawling in sensitive habitats to protecting sea turtles from commercial fishing gear.

16. Port Orford Oregon Sustainable Seafood, United States

Aaron Longton co-founded Port Orford Oregon Sustainable Seafood (POSS) in 2009 on a mission to pay local fishers fair prices for their catch. The company sells Consumer Supported Fishery (CSF) boxes — based on the concept of Community Supported Agriculture — to customers in Western Washington. POSS fishes hook-and-line year-round and fillets its own salmon, Dungeness, albacore, halibut and more right on the docks of Port Orford.

17. Recirculating Farms Coalition, United States

The Louisiana-based Recirculating Farms Coalition helps build hydroponic, aquaponic and aquaculture farms that recycle clean water and fish waste to grow fresh, local greens. The organization also advocates for local, regional and national policies that support sustainable agriculture and fair farming. Recirculating Farms’ local initiatives, Growing Local NOLA and Growing Local On The Geaux, build community gardens and green spaces, and offer New Orleans residents free classes and events.

18. Seatopia Collective, United States

Seatopia is a farm-to-table cooperative in Southern California that sources antibiotic and hormone-free seafood from sustainable aquaculture farms. Aiming to mitigate pressure on wild-caught fish, the co-op connects restaurants and consumers to a vetted list of small-scale, regenerative farms that raise responsibly fed, non-GMO fish. Seatopia also donates to 1% for the Planet, a nonprofit that puts 1 percent of the company’s earnings towards funding Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

19. Sociedad de Historia Natural Niparajà, Mexico

Sociedad de Historia Natural Niparajà, or Niparajà Natural History Society, is a nature conservation organization based in Baja California Sur. The group educates local fishers on responsible harvesting practices and helps establish refuge zones to restore fish populations in the San Cosme to Punta Coyote Corridor. Sociedad de Historia Natural Niparajà also pioneers initiatives to conserve water and protect local water sources from mining.

20. Stop Illegal Fishing, Botswana

Stop Illegal Fishing partners with governments, law enforcement agencies and other organizations to eliminate illegal fishing across Africa. The nonprofit spreads awareness across local, regional and national platforms, and deploys task forces that crack down on illicit practices — such as smuggling, trading illegal products and using explosives to kill fish — by monitoring vessels and ports.

21. Sustainable Fishery Trade, Peru

Sustainable Fishery Trade (SFT) is an initiative overseen by the Nonprofit Enterprise and Self-sustainability Team (NESsT) that sources fish from small-scale Peruvian fishers to sell to restaurants and retail stores at a fair price. SFT also educates local fishers on sustainable harvesting and fish farming. The organization has trained more than 200 fishers to date, and boosted fishers’ incomes by 30 to 50 percent.

22. The Bay of Bengal Programme, Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Sri Lanka

The Bay of Bengal Programme (BOBP) is an intergovernmental organization and agreement between Bangladesh, India, Maldives and Sri Lanka working to establish environmentally and economically sustainable fishing practices in The Bay of Bengal. BOBP educates fishers on responsible practices and new technologies, monitors the progress of its member countries, and institutes transnational policies to conserve fishing stocks.

23. WorldFish, International

WorldFish is an international nonprofit that highlights sustainable fishing and aquaculture methods through its research, as a way to reduce poverty and bolster food and nutrition security across Africa, Asia, and the Pacific. WorldFish researches how to best breed and feed fish, prevent diseases, protect marine ecosystems, and increase the availability of fish as a food source.

24. Xpert Sea, Canada

Canadian technology company XpertSea uses artificial intelligence to help fishers farm more efficiently and sustainably. Xpert Sea’s systems can track the growth and health of shrimp and fish, identify disease, predict the best times to harvest, and monitor for poor water management and excessive feeding. The company serves customers in more than 50 countries.

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