Current Paths for Sustainable Fisheries Investment

lnvestors, including impact investors, can invest in the fisheries sector through two general approaches (see figure below). The first, more traditional, approach invests in fishing or seafood supply chain businesses. Examples at the level of fishers in supply chain include funding for fishing companies or cooperatives to purchase more sustainable fishing gear (e.g., that excludes bycatch or protects ocean habitats), improve vessels, or buy cold storage equipment. Further up the supply chain are investments in processing and logistics businesses. Return on these investments stems from increased productivity and efficiency of fishing; reduced waste; increased access to markets; ; and/or higher product values.

Sus. Opps

The second approach for investors is at the resource level. For example, in some fisheries like West Coast Groundfish in the United States, investors can purchase rights to fish with the potential to sell or lease these rights for environmental, social, and/or financial benefit in the future.  Similar to purchasing equity or stock in a company, equity in the right to fish in a limited-access fishery can be bought and sold. Examples include tradable fishing licenses, effort quota (such as vessel days), and fishing quota. Return on these investments relies on fish populations maintaining or increasing in abundance in the future.

These resource-level investments in the second approach require legally enforceable rights and robust tenure systems.  As such, they currently exist almost exclusively in developed country fisheries that have robust ocean policies and strong legal systems to create, manage, and enforce ownership and transfer of fishing rights. Few of these resource-level investment opportunities exist in developing country fisheries.

Because of the open access nature of fisheries, without fisheries policy and management in place, investments in the supply chain are unlikely, in and of themselves, to improve the health of a fishery. They may reduce the impact of a participating firm or entity, but unless all firms apply the same standard, negative practices will continue to impede the recovery of a fishery.

More impactful are  well structured resource level investments intrinsically tied to the biological recovery of a fishery. Improved fishery health will likely benefit these investments and thus drive a virtuous circle of fishery improvements, leading to improved social and economic outcomes, which in turn increases the economic value of the fishery.

Stock Health

Adapted from: Inamdar, Neel, Larry Band, Miguel Jorge, and Jada Tullos Anderson. Developing Impact Investment Opportunities for Return-Seeking Capital in Sustainable Marine Capture Fisheries. Edited by Ashley Simons. Washington, D.C.: World Bank Group, 2016.


Developing investment opportunities in sustainable marine capture fisheries

Marine fisheries provide an important source of food and livelihoods for millions of people globally, contributing more than US $274 billion to the global economy[1] and some estimates of the potential net gain for improved management at US $600-$1400 billion in present value over fifty years after rebuilding fish stocks[2].

How can governments, development banks, philanthropic grant-makers, and nonprofit organizations create the conditions that will attract and recruit impact investors to participate in the sustainable fisheries sector and contribute to the long-term value of global fisheries? We at Wilderness Markets recently tackled this question as part of our work with World Bank.

The first step is to clearly understand the barriers that keep these investors from engaging with sustainable fisheries and the information they need to evaluate investments. With this knowledge in hand, leaders in government, international development, and philanthropy can align their own funding to create the conditions for more capital to contribute to sustainable fisheries.

The central challenges that keep return-seeking investors from participating in sustainable fisheries fall into four main categories: a lack of fishery data, ineffective fisheries management, unreliable infrastructure systems, and a paucity of investment-ready opportunities.

We propose three potential models for sequencing and combining different sources of capital to overcome these obstacles and achieve sustainable fisheries:

  • Serial Approach: Public and philanthropic funders first support the establishment of strong governance, data collection, and management of a fishery. Based on the de-risking effort of these initial projects, return-seeking investors subsequently fund sustainable infrastructure projects (often in conjunction with public resources) and/or enterprises focused on triple bottom line outcomes.

Investment Models, Serial Graphic

  • Consolidated Approach: Governments negotiate agreements with a single private sector entity or cooperative to delegate fishery management responsibilities. The private firm or cooperative then simultaneously invests in fishery data, management, infrastructure, and triple bottom-line enterprises.

Investment Models, Consolidated Graphic

  • Parallel Approach: A range of investors and other stakeholders (e.g., governments, nonprofit organizations, fishing collectives) develop concurrent and coordinated investments in fisheries data, management, infrastructure, and triple bottom line enterprises. Each effort is separately funded, but they work in tandem and share the ultimate goal of achieving sustainable catch with an appropriately capitalized and profitable fishing sector.

Investment Models, Parallel Graphic

Each of the above sequencing models has pros and cons, and each warrants additional exploration; making return-seeking investments that achieve the triple bottom line outcomes of social, environmental, and economic benefits is early on in it its evolution within the fisheries sector. They hold potential to attract additional funds and encourage private-sector approaches to help speed the transition to sustainable fisheries.

Adapted from: Inamdar, Neel, Larry Band, Miguel Jorge, and Jada Tullos Anderson. Developing Impact Investment Opportunities for Return-Seeking Capital in Sustainable Marine Capture Fisheries. Edited by Ashley Simons. Washington, D.C.: World Bank Group, 2016.

[1] World Bank. 2012. “Hidden Harvest: The Global Contribution of Capture Fisheries.” 66469–GLB.

[2] Sumaila, Ussif Rashid, William Cheung, Andrew Dyck, Kamal Gueye, Ling Huang, Vicky Lam, Daniel Pauly, et al. 2012. “Benefits of Rebuilding Global Marine Fisheries Outweigh Costs.” Edited by Julian Clifton. PLoS ONE 7 (7): e40542. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0040542.