Most folks who visit the Mayan Riviera go there for vacation; but if you are in the business of saving fish and fishing communities, Cancun was the place to be last week- not for the beaches, but for the opportunity to attend the World Ocean Summit. This conference attracts policy makers, economists, conservation funders, and technology innovators to engage in a dialogue about ocean challenges, form new collaborations, and make public commitments to improving our oceans.
A few members of our Future of Fish team attended this year's event focused on three streams: sustainable seafood, climate change, and plastics. Running through discussions on all these topics were two themes: transparency and accountability.
With multiple sessions and many new and old colleagues to meet, our team took a "divide and conquer" approach to the event. We attended panels and met with innovators across the fields of sustainable seafood, financing, development, and traceability. Across these conversations and sessions, we discovered a few key take-home messages:
- There is a need and unified desire for blended finance collaborations and structures that combine diverse sources of capital to fund sustainability and resiliency of oceans and fisheries.
- Awareness of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) has gone mainstream, with calls for 30% ocean protection by 2050, but there are real challenges ahead to gain buy-in for new areas to protect, enforcing protection of existing MPAs, and crating economic models that reward responsible behaviors within MPA boundaries.
- Governments maintain a crucial role in ocean leadership, despite progress from the NGO and private sector on developing sustainable models.
- Aquaculture shows major potential to shift effort away from wild capture fisheries, with exciting technology innovations, and business models that can attract capital on the horizon.
- While progress is being made, there were stark reminders of the potential devastation our oceans face, and the imperative to sustain our efforts and attract more people, funding, and technologies to the cause
Business, political, and thought leaders from across the globe showed support for these goals, including addresses from President Nieto of Mexico, Prime Minister Solberg of Norway, Sir Richard Branson of the Virgin Group, and Sylvia Earle of Mission Blue, to name a few.
At Future of Fish, we are actively engaged in making blended finance a reality to fund transformation in wild capture fisheries systems. Funding remains a stuck point for a wide array of interventions, and we were pleased to support the Environmental Defense Fund's (EDF) release of new principles for sustainable fisheries investment at the Summit, and dive into conversations with others working to develop this space.
Fisheries improvement work is about more than fish- it pursues and progresses social, environmental, and economic goals targeted by a variety of development, government, business, and NGO institutions. By aligning priorities across these organizations, we unleash the potential to not only benefit and support local leaders that are driving ocean conservation in their communities and countries, but also setting an example for the world at large.
We're inspired by the messages emerging from the Summit, and remain committed to the important work that lies ahead... for some of us, that meant hopping a plane north to Boston for the North American Seafood Expo. For others, it was a longer journey to Asia. More on our continued travels and work developments to come soon.