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Courtesy of Rachel Strader

Marine Conservation Initiative

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Two complementary strategies underpin our work supporting healthy oceans and their sustainable use.

  • Ocean planning takes a comprehensive look at all of the activities occurring in a specific place and then balances human uses (including commercial, subsistence and recreational fishing, shipping and renewable energy generation) with ecosystem health.
  • Reforming fishery management aligns economic incentives with conservation goals through policy tools such as catch shares and science-based total catch limits.

Ocean planning
Ocean planning allows communities, industry and governments to decide together what kind of future they want for their coastal economies. By looking at the entire suite of activities occurring in a specific place, ocean planning allows communities to balance human needs with ecosystem conservation.

Significant achievements include:

  • Giving resource managers a practical guide to ocean planning. In 2010, UNESCO published the first Step-by-Step Guide to Marine Spatial Planning. Based on an analysis of 10+ international examples of ocean planning, the guide provides insight into what’s worked and what hasn’t around the globe. The goal: equip resource managers—who are often trained in areas such as ecology, biology, oceanography or engineering—to effectively manage the complex, multi-stakeholder process of ocean planning. To date, the guide has been translated into seven languages and used in 27 countries around the world.
  • Demonstrating the value of ecosystem-based management of land and sea. With First Nations and provincial governments playing a lead role, the Marine Planning Partnership for the North Pacific Coast is developing an ecosystem-based approach to manage the marine area adjacent to Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest. With the temperate rainforest already under ecosystem-based management, the region could become the largest terrestrial and marine area in the world managed from an ecosystem perspective, demonstrating the promise of sustainable use for the environment, the economy and the social well-being of people.

Reforming fishery management systems
In order to succeed over the long term, economic incentives need to be aligned with conservation goals. That means creating systems that enable fishermen to profit directly from the long-term conservation of healthy fisheries. We partner with communities, fishermen and other stakeholders in New England and the U.S. West Coast to establish systems to do just that.

Catch share programs allocate a portion of the total allowable catch to individuals or communities. This system counteracts the drive to maximize short-term profits by offering fishermen a personal stake in the future of the fishery.

We also understand that fishery management policies are only as good as the science that supports them. That means setting science-based total catch limits and establishing systems for monitoring how many fish are caught—accurately, cost-effectively and in real time. We are currently supporting work to streamline the process of gathering and analyzing data on how many and what types of fish are caught.

Finally, we support innovations in gear and fishing practices that reduce bycatch and habitat damage.

Every step of the way, we work to ensure that fishermen’s voices are heard as policies and fishery management systems are designed.

Grantee Stories

Climate Change Adaptation in Ocean Planning. Grantees: EcoAdapt and Nanwakolas Council

Decision support tools for ocean planning. Grantees: SeaPlan and Center for Ocean Solutions

Science and ecosystem services in decision-making. Grantees: Natural Capital Project and West Coast Aquatic

British Columbia Marine Conservation Analysis for Resource Management Decisions. Grantee: Tides Canada Initiatives

Reforming fisheries management in New England. Grantees: Maine Coast Fishermen's Association (sub-grant through Island Institute) and Gulf of Maine Research Institute

Reforming fisheries management on the West Coast. Grantee: The Nature Conservancy

Reforming Fisheries Management on the West Coast (text only). Grantee: The Nature Conservancy

Off the West Coast of the United States, more than sixty species of groundfish swim slowly through the kelp forests and rocky reefs. Often sold as “Pacific red snapper,” a rockfish can live more than 100 years and may not spawn until it’s over thirty. This life history makes them vulnerable to overfishing, which jeopardizes both fish populations and fishing jobs. The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation’s grant to The Nature Conservancy (TNC) aims to avoid this scenario by strengthening existing fishing communities and helping support new networks in California.  
In 2011, the Pacific groundfish fishery adopted a “catch share” system that sets a quota for the amount of fish that can be taken from an area, reducing the threat of overfishing. With support from the Foundation, TNC is working with coastal communities in California and Washington to create “risk pools,” a cooperative approach in which fishermen pool their individual fish quotas as an insurance mechanism, in case any one fisherman accidentally goes over his limit. The “risk pools” ensure that more fishermen are able to fish for longer in the season without being shut down for breaking the seasonal fishing limit. The grant also supports electronic monitoring to help these collective fishing arrangements.  
This partnership helps keep fisheries in business, protects marine resources, and sustains a future for the fishing industry. It aims to be emulated in other communities across the country.