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Bloomberg Philanthropies Launches The Vibrant Oceans Initiative, A $53 Million Commitment To Reverse Declining Fish Supply

Promotes Reforms to Boost Fish Populations, Ensuring Sustainable Supplies of Fish for Food and Income

Five-Year Commitment is the First Program to Simultaneously Reform Small-Scale and Industrial Fishing Practices, and Places Bloomberg Philanthropies Among Top 5 Global Oceans Funders

NEW YORK, Jan. 29, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Bloomberg Philanthropies today announced the launch of the Vibrant Oceans initiative, a commitment of $53 million over five years to promote reforms to boost fish populations in Brazil, the Philippines and Chile. Currently, over-fishing and destruction of important marine areas are threatening the global supply of fish. Reforming fishing practices in these countries will revitalize 7% of the world's fisheries and will potentially serve as a model for future global reform efforts by providing insights into the best ways to protect the world's fish supply.

The grant is also the largest philanthropic commitment to internationally reform fisheries management to date and is the first time that a private capital financing strategy will be integrated into such a reform effort.

"At Bloomberg Philanthropies, we look for opportunities to address unmet needs with proven solutions that improve the greatest number of lives. While billions of people depend on fish for food or income, only 13% of the world's fisheries are safe from being over-fished, presenting serious environmental and public health challenges," said Michael R. Bloomberg, philanthropist and 108th Mayor of New York City. "Data shows the world's severely threatened fish populations can rebound if fishing is properly managed. The investment we are making now will help bring more life back to our oceans – and protect them for future generations."

"If we don't act now to protect our world's oceans from over-fishing, we risk jeopardizing a vital source of food and income for billions of people – and permanently damaging a marine ecosystem that sustains so many species, including our own," says Paul Greenberg author of the New York Times bestseller Four Fish and the forthcoming American Catch. "Even though we are fishing more and using advanced technologies, the amount of fish caught has declined nearly 8% since the 1990s and demand for fish is projected to rise 20% by 2030." 

To revitalize the world's declining supply of fish, the Vibrant Oceans initiative is applying a groundbreaking approach to fisheries management.  It is the first effort to simultaneously target small scale, near-shore fishing (within 10 nautical miles of shore) and industrial, far-shore fishing (which takes place in the next 190 nautical miles). While both kinds of fisheries are largely depleted and in need of reform, previous efforts to reform fishing generally concentrated on one or the other.

Bloomberg Philanthropies selected three best-in-class partners with distinct areas of expertise to introduce the Vibrant Oceans initiative's comprehensive strategy:  

  • Oceana, the largest international organization working solely on protecting oceans, will focus on reforming industrial fishing by advocating for national policies such as setting and enforcing reasonable catch-limits, and reducing the amount of sea life that is unintentionally caught and discarded.
  • Rare, a non-profit with 40 years of experience working with local communities to solve environmental problems, will engage coastal communities to implement management systems that are led by local fishers. The management systems will include exclusive fishing rights for near-shore fishers along with the creation and strengthening of protected areas within those fisheries where fish can reproduce unharmed.
  • EKO Asset Management Partners, a specialized investment and advisory firm focused on discovering and monetizing unrealized or unrecognized environmental assets, will develop investment blueprints that can bring private capital to financially reward local fishers and industrial fleets transitioning to sustainable fishing practices.

"More institutions and individuals are looking for ways for their investments to yield financial results while also addressing environmental problems," said Adam Wolfensohn, board member of EKO Asset Management Partners. "There is rapidly growing interest in opportunities to invest in sustainable fisheries and innovative financial models that support the transition to sustainable fisheries."

Proper management of fisheries can increase fish populations and the number of fish that can be caught for food and income. Leading research published last fall in Science projected that better management of global fisheries would simultaneously increase fish abundance by more than 50% and fishery yields by up to 40%[i].

The 30 countries that account for over 90% of fish caught worldwide have exclusive control of the waters where all small-scale fishers and most industrial fishing fleets catch their fish, providing vital opportunities for introducing fisheries reform. Small-scale and industrial fishers catch roughly the same amount of fish for food, so addressing both simultaneously can achieve results more quickly and help reverse the dangerous trend of overfishing at both the local and national levels. 

"The demand for food is expected to rise by at least 70% by the year 2050, but the supply of wild caught fish is declining," said Andrew Sharpless, Chief Executive Officer of Oceana and author of The Perfect Protein. "National governments have the power to stop destructive industrial fishing within 200 nautical miles of shore, where most fish are caught. It's clear from the data that when governments enact and enforce the right policies, fish populations come back. The support and leadership of Michael R. Bloomberg, through Bloomberg Philanthropies, will allow more people to eat more fish for generations to come." 

Oceana estimates that improved fisheries management could provide a daily meal to an additional 250 million people by 2050.

"Michael R. Bloomberg is known both for promoting pragmatic local solutions and making big bets," said Brett Jenks, President and Chief Executive Officer of Rare. "With this investment, he's actually doing both. Over-fishing is a ubiquitous problem, but the solution for local communities is relatively simple – empower local fishers with exclusive access to their fisheries and build their capacity to set-up protected areas within that fishery where fish can reproduce unharmed and populate the surrounding area. The result is more fish in the ocean and more fish for the community. This is a strong incentive for fishers to become better stewards of their marine resources so people and nature thrive."

Bloomberg Philanthropies brings significant new resources to the field of fisheries management, which also impacts climate change, biodiversity and food availability. "I can think of few philanthropic investments that take on, in a significant manner, three major global challenges facing humanity: reducing future climate emissions from agriculture, protecting us from the loss of both terrestrial and marine biodiversity, and ensuring a healthy source of protein for the world, forever. Improving the fisheries policies of major fishing nations will do these things," said Dr. Kristian Parker, Chair of Oceana Board of Directors and Trustee of Oak Foundation, which is a major global funder on ocean and climate change issues.

A significant portion of the funding to Oceana and Rare will be used to expand their in-country staff, particularly to build a team of knowledgeable individuals from that country who can operate within the political and social structures there.

About Bloomberg Philanthropies
Bloomberg Philanthropies' mission is to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: Public Health, Environment, Education, Government Innovation and the Arts. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg's charitable activities, including his foundation and his personal giving. In 2013, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $452 million was distributed to organizations worldwide. For more information on the philanthropy, please visit bloomberg.org.

About Oceana
Oceana is the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world's oceans. Oceana wins policy victories for the oceans using science-based campaigns. Since 2001, Oceana has protected over 1.2 million square miles of ocean and innumerable sea turtles, sharks, dolphins and other sea creatures. More than 600,000 supporters have already joined Oceana. Global in scope, Oceana has offices in North, South and Central America and Europe. To learn more, please visit oceana.org.

About Rare
Rare inspires change so people and nature thrive. Rare looks for proven conservation solutions and trains local leaders to inspire communities to adopt them and make them their own through its signature Pride campaigns. Pride campaigns use proven marketing techniques to move the hearts and minds of local communities, accelerating the adoption and increasing the sustainability of the solutions. Rare has conducted over 250 Pride campaigns in more than 50 countries, empowering local communities across geographies and cultures to shift from resource users to become natural asset managers. Visit Rare on the web at rare.org.

About EKO Asset Management Partners
EKO is an investment and advisory firm founded in 2007. EKO develops and implements innovative approaches to financing conservation and environmental sustainability designed to deliver attractive returns to investors. The firm was founded by professionals with backgrounds in finance, banking, asset management and environmental conservation.  EKO's founding shareholders include Wolfensohn & Co. and several other family offices and high net worth investors. EKO works on groundbreaking initiatives related to water, fisheries, carbon, agriculture and natural infrastructure with partners such as The Nature Conservancy, CH2M Hill, and the Rockefeller Foundation. Visit EKO on the web at ekoamp.com .

[i] Costello, Christopher et al., Status and Solutions for the World's Unassessed Fisheries. Science, vol. 338, p. 517. October 26, 2012.

"Our results suggest that global fishery recovery would simultaneously create increases in abundance (56%) and fishery yields (8 to 40%)."

CONTACT: Bloomberg Philanthropies, Meghan Womack, +212-205-0176, meghan@bloomberg.org

SOURCE Bloomberg Philanthropies

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