Fish Forever


Grant Recipients: Rare, Environmental Defense Fund, and
University of California Santa Barbara
Project Support: Fish Forever
Term: 2012/2013

The Problem

A recent study in the journal Science concluded that global fish stocks are in rapid decline. The report is the first comprehensive analysis of more than 10,000 fisheries—roughly 80 percent of global fish catch. Small fisheries, those that exist within 10 miles of shore, are in particular trouble. Humans have overfished 64 percent of the world’s fisheries. This concerns not just the fish, but also the more than one billion people who rely on fish as their main source of protein.

Working Together Towards a Solution

Originating from an introduction made by the Waitt Foundation, Rare, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) are designing a global “Fish Forever” initiative to curb overfishing in the developing world’s most important fishing regions. The goal is to create sustainable and profitable fisheries through a system of marine reserves and rights-based management that empowers fishermen by limiting access and assigning exclusive fishing privileges to local communities. The strategy is to help establish these community-led systems in partnership with hundreds of small fishing villages in Asia and Latin America, and then leverage progress to catalyze large-scale reform throughout the developing world. This effort will support the bold new global goal led by the World Bank in partnership with EDF, Rare, and others, to achieve 50% of the world’s fisheries and global catch under sustainable management in the next ten years.


Success on this scale and timeframe will require moving beyond traditional replication models. Instead, we must move toward a more viral model of change in which local people independently seek out the benefits they see their neighbors reaping from new practices. NGOs and scientists have a critical up-front role in working with communities to build local demonstration projects, but it’s the power of example that will help catalyze proliferation. It is also essential to work at the policy level to translate local success into the national codification of rights-based management that will serve as the organizing principle of coastal fisheries laws. The theory of change is rooted in a reform model that is championed by local communities; requires limited involvement by third parties; can succeed despite weak government institutions; is highly scalable; and will self-proliferate.

This is a powerful partnership that is uniquely positioned to achieve the ambitious goals of Fish Forever. EDF is a global leader in transforming fisheries through rights-based management; Rare specializes in engaging developing country communities in bottom-up change; and UCSB is at the forefront of scientific innovations to assess fisheries and design sustainable management systems. Strategic planning has begun in earnest with implementation to begin in 2014.

Five-year Goals of the Partnership

Improve fishery sustainability, biodiversity conservation, and coastal livelihoods in several of the world’s most important tropical ecosystems that will spark a global movement toward locally managed and rights-based solutions in near shore fisheries.

Provide innovative, replicable solutions to ubiquitous fisheries and marine conservation challenges affecting coastal ecosystems worldwide. These solutions will be delivered to diverse audiences using a range of communication materials, trainings, media outlets and high-impact scientific publications.


Two fisherwomen carry a basket of fish near DachengTown, Chaozhou City, in south China's Guangdong province. Dacheng fishermen and women cast their nets into the sea from boats in the morning and then pull them back to shore.


Rare Website
Environmental Defense Fund Website
University of California, Santa Barbara Website

rare_vert_rgb-tm_website.png      edf-logo.jpg    sfg-logo-type.jpg

Comments are closed.