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Walton Family Foundation Announces $250 Million Commitment to Ocean Conservation

September 16, 2016

At the Walton Family Foundation, we believe conservation solutions that make economic sense are the ones that stand the test of time. Our mission is to improve lives and secure healthy ocean and river ecosystems by aligning environmental, social and economic interests.

At this year’s Our Ocean conference, the Walton Family Foundation announces a five-year, $250 million commitment to support ocean conservation and sustainable fisheries in Indonesia and the Americas—United States, Mexico, Chile and Peru, and restoration of coastal Gulf of Mexico.

When we are successful we will have:

  • Moved almost 25 percent of the world’s fisheries (by volume) toward sustainability,
  • Generated almost $6 billion in additional revenues for fishermen and the fishing industry from healthier, more productive fisheries,
  • Benefited over 5.25 million small-scale fishermen,
  • Advocated for the $15 billion of oil spill settlement funds to go toward meaningful restoration of the Gulf of Mexico as these fund begin to flow to the region, and
  • Eliminated the flow of illegal seafood into the three largest seafood markets.

The Opportunity for Global Fisheries

Fishing can become the sustainable success story of the 21st century. We already see encouraging signs of recovery in the United States and elsewhere that happens when you empower local fishermen and communities, set fishing quotas based on science, harness the market for sustainable seafood, and reform public policies. There is momentum for a new, coordinated approach that expands the network of players involved in fisheries issues, coordinates around shared goals, and shares the tools and approaches that work.

The opportunity we see is in creating new partnerships among conservation, business and communities to restore the health of oceans through sustainable fisheries. Overfishing is one of the greatest, yet most tractable threats to marine ecosystems. It has a direct impact on the health of fish populations, ocean biodiversity and ecosystem structure and function. Nearly two-thirds of fish populations for which good data exist need some level of recovery, and best estimates indicate that less well-studied fish populations, accounting for more than half of all fish landed, are in even worse shape.

If properly managed, fisheries could provide increased income and stability for coastal communities and industry, as well as the improved ocean health that results from resilient fish populations. Despite a clear economic and environmental rationale to fish responsibly, perverse political and financial incentives lead fishermen to value a fish in the net today over two in the ocean tomorrow.

To secure healthy, sustainable fisheries, we focus on policy changes, innovations in fisheries management, and market pressure.

We empower and incentivize fishermen and communities to fish smarter, not harder. We connect healthy fisheries with financial benefits for sustainable fishing and in turn create incentives for good management of fishery resources.

Over the next five years the Walton Family Foundation will work with grantees and partners in the following six strategies:

1. Develop the scientific information and tools to enable better fisheries management;

2. Support the implementation of rights-based fisheries management to provide secure tenure rights to fishermen;

3. Safeguard critical fish habitats with marine-protected areas and other spatial management tools;

4. Strengthen the capacity of fishermen, governments and civil society to sustainably manage fisheries;

5. Promote fisheries policies and programs that create positive incentives to encourage responsible fishing; and

6. Engage the supply chain to build support for healthy fisheries practices.

Implementing these six strategies concurrently will result in a legal and economic framework that creates strong incentives to develop and maintain healthy fisheries. The end result will be healthy ecosystems that support healthy fish populations, making fishing communities and industry more economically and socially secure.

The Opportunity for U.S. Coastal Restoration

The Gulf of Mexico is vital to the nation’s economy, home to a $34 billion tourism industry and 40 percent of all seafood harvested in the lower 48 states. Billions of dollars are moving into the Gulf from the 2010 oil spill penalties. All told, there will be almost $15 billion over the next 15 years available for restoration. Our aim is to ensure that these funds are invested wisely, so that restoration activities address the historic loss of wetlands and other coastal systems that the region needs to stay strong and resilient.

Restoration this big requires a big-picture approach. There are four key strategies that underpin our theory of change.

  • First, we will develop the economic cases for large-scale projects that restore wetlands, barrier islands, oyster reefs and other natural systems.
  • Second, we will build strong multi-sector coalitions of key constituencies, including businesses, to advocate effectively for priority restoration projects. We believe that the solutions that will work will benefit both the ecosystems and the economies of the region.
  • Third, we will advance the scientific framework needed to support the selection of large-scale restoration projects and ensure that any lessons learned are incorporated into future restoration opportunities.
  • Fourth, in order to fulfill the promise of restoration, we will cut red tape by working to reduce administrative and procedural barriers that slow implementation and increase the cost of restoration. We will also seek out and support out-of-the-box alternatives like pay-for-performance and public-private partnerships.