Today, on the eve of the Rio+20 Earth Summit, Ecotrust is joining the Global Partnership for Oceans, backed by the World Bank and joined by major seafood buyers like COSTCO, international aid bodies such as the U.S. Agency for International Development, and other civil society groups such as Conservation International and The Nature Conservancy. The partnership will invest targeted funds into sustainable seafood harvesting and aquaculture initiatives, coastal conservation efforts and ocean pollution reduction projects. The aim is to deliver crucial innovation for the 6 billion people worldwide who will live on or near the coast by 2025.
So why is a regional organization like Ecotrust – one rooted firmly in the West Coast of North America – joining this partnership?
For the last twenty years, we’ve been experimenting with new approaches to building resilient and prosperous communities, economies and ecosystems here in our bioregion. Now, it’s time to take what we’ve learned to a global scale.
The need is great. Consider that the oceans already supply 350 million jobs, and that seafood products provide primary protein for 1 billion people every day.
In order to deal with these realities and the coming surges of population growth and climate change we need to take novelty worldwide. We believe that partnerships like this one are the best way to network good regional ideas and deliver the radical change we need across the globe.
At the top of the list are these three tools and sets of expertise that we’ll bring to the global partnership:
- Impact investing in whole ecosystems. Ecotrust has had success pooling investments from private and foundation sources, buying forestland, managing it for whole ecosystem health, and delivering steady returns from nature’s dividends to investors and communities. On 12,000 acres in Oregon and Washington bought by Ecotrust Forests, Ecotrust Forest Management is selectively logging multiple tree species, selling credits for carbon sequestered in standing trees and other plant material, nurturing wildlife habitat in exchange for conservation payments and protecting clean water in streams and rivers, with an eye toward water markets. Timber and land management jobs created in distressed communities allow us to leverage New Markets Tax Credits as well. We’re now exploring similar investment approaches for marine ecosystems.
- Community-based fisheries. One of the proven ways to maintain healthy, well-managed fish stocks for the long-term is to involve local fishermen in management and support them with stable financing methods. People who live on the ocean and depend on its resources for a livelihood have the greatest stake in its health. Community fisheries groups have thrived all around the world and we’ve brought innovative financing mechanisms to some in the Northwest through the North Pacific Fisheries Trust. We’re now connecting the experience of isolated communities in conservation, financing and fish brand marketing through the Community Fisheries Network. That sort of networking and the solutions that evolve from it have applications worldwide.
- Decision-support tools that integrate conservation with coastal economies. Marine protected area networks in California and Australia were enshrined into law this past week, showing a trend toward marine stewardship across the world. Ecotrust’s decision-support tools allow marine planners to compile data on myriad ocean uses into one mapping tool, and weigh the impacts of protected areas and other management changes on fishermen, recreational boaters, shippers and other ocean users. In California’s marine protected area process, our decision-support tools allowed planning groups to significantly reduce the impacts of protected areas on commercial fishermen. Competing ocean uses worldwide demand this integrated, state-of-the-art approach.
The contexts of regions worldwide are different, but we face similar vulnerabilities and challenges on a crowded, warming planet. For instance, when envisioning sea-level rise, people typically see it swamping low-lying Pacific islands like Kiribati, which is already seeking higher elevation land in Fiji to relocate its people. But new projections also show potentially devastating consequences for Pacific Northwest communities in river deltas should seas rise an expected one meter. Some communities around Vancouver, B.C. would be forced to relocate and its airport would be threatened. So the city has something to learn from Kiribati (prounced KiriBAS).
Last fall, Kiribati president Anote Tong joined us in Portland for a convening of 50 other regional leaders from around the world. We asked the group: how can we foster resilience in the face of huge global change? Tong noted that his country had already lost a lot of its resilience. But in the quest to get it back, the country had offered up a massive marine protected area — 160,000 square miles — that he hoped would serve as a sanctuary for marine species in these turbulent times. He called it Kiribati’s gift to the world and it has since been declared a World Heritage Site.
We have nowhere near this sort of magnanimous offering to the world. But in this same spirit, we offer up our tools and experience to a new global partnership, part of the global experiment in scaling regional solutions for resilience.