Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg's foundation is making the largest philanthropic donation ever to help the world's oceans, specifically to reform fisheries management.
Over the next five years, Bloomberg Philanthropies will donate $53 million to nonprofits Oceana, Rare, and EKO, which will simultaneously attack persistent problems that plague our oceans and are leading to collapsing fish species across the world.
Under the Vibrant Oceans Initiative, the three groups will focus on boosting fish populations in Chile, Brazil, and the Philippines, which better practices would revitalize 7% of the world's fisheries. Models developed there will hopefully turn into policies that can be applied to many other countries.
There are three major causes of overfishing:
- Industrial fishing is too big - ships can catch twice the fish that exist in the ocean! Inadequate or nonexistent quotas allow species to be depleted to the point where they can't recover
- industrial bottom trawling, dynamiting and cyanide fishing, which destroy complete habitats
- bycatch - capturing many unintended species including sea turtles and dolphins.
"The good news is that marine ecosystems can rebound relatively quickly if caught in time. The factors that led to mismanagement must be addressed now to replenish fish populations and to help meet the dietary needs of a growing global population," says Bloomberg Philanthropies.
Marine Preserves in Northern California:
These problems have been known for decades but have yet to be resolved. With over 80% of the world's fisheries either exploited or threatened, Oceana will work with national governments on policies that reform industrial fishing practices, such as science-based quotas and bycatch.
Because 12 million local fisherman catch roughly the same amount of fish, Rare will simultaneously help local governments and coastal communities implement sustainable small-scale practices. One reform will be to offer exclusive fishing rights in exchange for creating marine preserves as California, Australia and Costa Rica have done.
EKO Asset Management is developing an investment model where private capital can reward fisheries that transition to sustainable practices.
With the oceans reeling from absorbing much of humanity's carbon emissions, reigning in pressure on fish and their habitats is one of the few ways to make a difference. As climate change advances and it becomes harder to grow food on land, a healthy fish population could make a huge difference.
Bloomberg Philanthropies has made the same $50 million commitment to end the reign of coal with the goal of shuttering a third of aging coal plants by 2020 in the US. Their other big environmental initiative is $20 million to help cities tackle climate change through the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group.
Another emerging threat to oceans is mass industrialization of deep sea ecosystems as people figure out how to mine for minerals there. "Without international cooperation with a focus on 'deep-ocean stewardship,' deep sea mining will follow the destructive examples set by commercial fishing and offshore fossil fuel operations, say scientists.
Incredibly, a group called the International Seabed Authority has already issued 19 prospecting licenses to governments and private companies.