Can New Principles Drive Money Into Sustainable Fishing?

Investments Mar 8, 2018
Steve Zwick

Seafood is a hot commodity, but current fishing practices are depleting ocean stocks faster than they can regenerate. Much of the investment flows driving those practices come from government agencies whose interests should be longer term, and new guidelines aim to direct them, as well as private flows, into more sustainable practices.

8 March 2018 | With a growing list of adopters and endorsers, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Meloy Fund, and Encourage Capital today launched new guidelines for investing in global fisheries to drive needed capital into scaling sustainably managed fisheries and restoring our oceans to abundance. The announcement was made at the World Ocean Summit 2018 in Riviera Maya, Mexico.

Although billions of public and private dollars are invested in fisheries every year, more often than not, sustainability is neither the driver nor the intended outcome of those investment dollars. That means we are currently missing a major opportunity to solve the global overfishing and food security problem, which requires significantly more and better-aligned investment from a variety of capital providers.

The Principles for Investment in Sustainable Fisheries are designed to do just that: to move new and sidelined capital into fishery investments, align that capital with responsible management, and give investors confidence that building environmental and social sustainability into fisheries will also yield a return on their investments. The Principles also train a spotlight on human rights for investors, especially when it comes to bringing new capital to small-scale fisheries and coastal communities. They have already been endorsed or adopted by more than 15 foundations, investment funds, project developers, and non-profit organizations.

“The Principles reinforce the notion that good management, science, and monitoring and enforcement are not only critical to sustainable fishing—but to sustainable investments, too,” said Amanda Leland, EDF Senior Vice President, Oceans. “Governance reform is the foundation of sustainable fisheries management and investment because it de-risks the system. Our hope is that these Principles will help drive investment and allow us to scale sustainable fisheries and restore our seas to health more quickly. That would be welcome news for hundreds of millions of people around the world, especially the poorest and most vulnerable communities that rely on the oceans to meet their most basic everyday needs.”

Momentum is building for the guidelines. The three major fisheries impact funds—Meloy Fund, Encourage Capital and Althelia Ecosphere—have agreed to adopt the Principles as founding adopters and apply them in investment decisions.

“Rare and the Meloy Fund decided to join forces with EDF and Encourage to co-author and become a founding adopter to these Principles because we are committed to establishing a sustainable wild-caught fisheries investment sector that prioritizes the best outcomes for ocean resources and fishing communities. We need to help define a common ground for the impact investing field and we are already applying these Principles routinely as part of our due diligence and supervision processes,” said Manuel Bueno, Fund Director at Meloy Fund.

The Principles apply globally to all debt and equity investment products deployed to finance a project and/or company, and where the project or company has or is expected to have an impact on wild-caught fisheries and their associated ecosystems and communities. Modeled after the Equator Principles, they complement existing guidelines and frameworks governing environmentally and socially responsible investment.

“Encourage is proud to be a part of the development of these sustainable fisheries Principles under the leadership of EDF. We believe these principles take into account the market-based research and practical experiences of commercial investment organizations that are trying to lead the way in demonstrating how deploying private capital into sustainable fishing and seafood companies is good for investors and good for the oceans,” said Jason Scott, Co-Managing Partner at Encourage Capital.

“Althelia is a founding adopter of these Principles because we wholeheartedly believe that sustainable fisheries investing can bring about the best possible environmental and social outcomes: healthy oceans, nutritious food, good jobs,” said Simon Dent, New Ventures Director at Althelia Ecosphere. “We look forward to applying these Principles to support the Sustainable Ocean Fund’s investment activity and decisions.”

The Principles are expected to be endorsed by non-investor institutions such as non-profit organizations, project developers, philanthropic foundations, and other public and private stakeholders interested in promoting the sustainable management of fisheries through investment.

An up-to-date list of adopters and endorsers can be found at www.fisheriesprinciples.org.