Healthy marine ecosystems in North America that support sustainable use.
US and Canada, with a focus on British Columbia, the U.S. West Coast, and New England.
Integrating human use with conservation by implementing comprehensive marine spatial planning (MSP) that considers and addresses the entire suite of activities occurring in a specific place to ensure healthy oceans and economies
Aligning economic incentives with conservation outcomes to reform fisheries management (RFM) including; promoting scientifically sound, total allowable catch limits that account for ecosystem considerations; increasing effective monitoring; and promoting sustainable harvesting gears and practices to end overfishing, rebuild depleted stocks, and sustain fishing communities
Healthy ecosystems sustain life—from providing food and clean water to supplying medicines and raw materials. Humans influence the health and vitality of virtually every ecosystem on the planet. If managed well, ecosystems are resilient and people can continue to rely on them for generations to come. However, managing ecosystems well means understanding the stress caused by human activity and finding effective ways to mitigate that stress.
Launched in July 2005, the Marine Conservation Initiative focuses on two of the largest, yet most solvable, threats to the oceans: overfishing (including bycatch and discards of unwanted catch) and habitat alteration. The initiative addresses these threats through support for diverse and broad constituents; durable policies, governance mechanisms, institutions, and financing; and applied science, monitoring tools, and technology. Work is focused in the US and Canada, largely in British Columbia, the U.S. West Coast and New England – geographies selected for their significant ecosystem services, baseline conditions and socio-economic characteristics, momentum among key stakeholders to pursue innovative solutions, and potential to serve as models. Additionally, the initiative is investigating opportunities to advance marine spatial planning that balances human use and conservation in the Arctic.
Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) and Reforming Fisheries Management (RFM) are the initiative’s primary strategies for change, in order to promote healthy marine ecosystems today and for future generations. Grantees work to implement MSP, to address the impacts of the entire suite of activities occurring in a specific place, and to balance appropriate and smart use of the ocean and its resources with conservation of the ecosystem. Grantees implement RFM through projects that align economic and social incentives with conservation, and that establish scientifically-sound and ecosystem-based catch limits. One important element of the RFM strategy is the creation of well-designed “catch shares,” which research shows can end overfishing, improve monitoring, promote more sustainable fishing practices, and help sustain fishing communities.
For more details on the Initiative’s strategies and Theory of Change, see the Strategies page.
Progress To Date
In Canada, the initiative’s funding has focused primarily on advancing integrated oceans management (MSP). At a regional scale in British Columbia, the initiative and its grantees have supported the Marine Planning Partnership for the North Pacific Coast (MaPP) process, and, at a local scale, First Nations planning processes and the West Coast Vancouver Island planning process. Grantmaking has also supported research into ecosystem impacts of different fishing gears and projects like community license banks that mitigate the potential negative social and economic impacts of catch shares.
In the U.S. West Coast, the initiative and its grantees concentrate on federal fisheries managed by the Pacific Fishery Management Council off the Oregon, Washington, and California coasts. Given the economic and ecological importance of the Pacific Groundfish fishery, the initiative has focused its grantmaking on implementing an Individual Transferable Quota system for the trawl sector and other sectors of the fishery, as well as mechanisms to meet community goals such as community fishing associations, and a fisheries financing loan fund for supporting innovative practices by fishermen. The initiative and its partners have supported efforts within California state waters (0-3 miles offshore) to move beyond a network of marine protected areas through the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative, towards comprehensive spatial planning of all major uses.
In New England, fisheries work has targeted the region encompassed by the New England Fishery Management Council. Work here includes policy analysis and advocacy, science, and outreach and technical assistance for fishermen, to ensure the sector-based management system for groundfish ends overfishing and works for fishermen. The initiative and its grantees have also advanced innovations in fishery monitoring to enable the transition, and permit banking pilots to mitigate potential negative impacts on fishing communities. Funding has supported MSP projects in the state waters of Massachusetts, resulting in the first comprehensive plan in the U.S., and data integration for MSP at the regional scale.
In the Arctic, work is currently underway to investigate potential opportunities to advance marine spatial planning.