Responsible Investment

From depleted to sustainable fish and income for fishermen

One important factor that prevents the recovery of fish stocks is the lack of financial security for fishers when faced with the costs of necessary conservation measures. This is a major obstacle that must be overcome.

It is also necessary to reduce the harmful subsidies that contribute to fishing "overcapacity". These funds that could be better spent by re-directing them to provide financial support to sustainable fishing practices, providing a threefold environmental, economic and social return.  

What WWF is doing

WWF advocates with governments to eliminate harmful subsidies and works with financial institutions and other partners to help fund long term fisheries recovery.
WWF engages with private and public financial institutions (eg. development and ethical banks) to design and promote financial mechanisms to make the transition to sustainable fisheries. 

Recently published in the journal Marine Policy, WWF's innovative paper "Raising the Sunken billions: Financing the transition to sustainable fisheries" proposes the establishment  of a Financial Institution for the Recovery of Marine Ecosystems (the FIRME) offering a full-scale investment solution to recover depleted stocks and marine ecosystems without adversely impacting livelihoods. This system would work through loans, based on a credible sustainable management plan, secured against the value of future fish stocks. WWF is currently partnering with stakeholders interested in helping to create a global financial model. The most likely first candidate for a groundbreaking pilot would be Canada´s Grand Banks of Newfoundland, with the global FIRME eventually allowing similar recovery projects in fisheries the world-over.

Development of the FIRME directly followed the WWF paper "Banking on Cod", also published in Marine Policy, which explored economic incentives for recovering Grand Banks and North Sea cod fisheries after the collapse of the Canadian northern cod fishery 20 years ago.

Find out more about our work on financing the transition to sustainable fisheries. 

Fisheries have become an underperforming asset. If they were better managed, estimated yearly profits could be US$50 billion.

Extract FAO/Worldbank report, 2008

Benefits from making the fishing sector sustainable

What benefits would sustainable fisheries bring?

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has calculated that investing $110 billion over the coming years in strengthened fisheries management – including the establishment of Marine Protected Areas (MPA), the decommissioning and reduction of fleet capacity, and retraining of workers – will allow fisheries to recover.

Such an investment, backed by strong policy measures, may result in an increase in catch levels from 80 million tons now to 90 million tons in 2050.

The benefits for the fishing sector of moving away from harmful subsidies is estimated to be 3-5 times the investment. That would be a great return on investment for both people and the ocean environment!

 / ©: Alfred Schumm WWF International
children on the beach. Small-scale fisheries (reef-fish, whitefish and tuna) in Stonetown, Zanzibar, Tanzania
© Alfred Schumm WWF International

The facts

    • some 38 million people fish for living
    • tens of millions more people work in the processing sector
    • billions of people depend on fish as a source of proteine

The FIRME - recovering marine ecosystems

  •  / ©: WWF International

Banking on cod

  • Cover of report: Banking on Cod / ©: WWF International

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