Letting fishermen be heard in the battle for the world’s oceans
Release Date: 12-08-2008

PORTLAND, Ore. – In the battle over the care and use of the world’s oceans, one voice is often lost in the debate: that of the fisherman.

A technology now exists to address that issue, and it’s just received a national award for innovation.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation today awarded Ecotrust $50,000 for Open OceanMap, an open-source, Web-based ocean mapping technology. Open OceanMap addresses the general lack of data — whether use or habitat data — that inhibits successful marine area management. The technology engages fishermen by letting them create GIS maps that place value on specific areas of the ocean that are most important to them. The resulting data facilitates more informed conversations between fishermen, policy makers and others, and better management planning for the benefit of marine environments and communities. It is estimated that Open OceanMap could, for example, cut in half the local economic impacts stemming from the implementation of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The technology is now in use on California coasts, it will soon be used in Oregon, and it could be used anywhere.

The Mellon Award follows a worldwide, public nomination process, and ten recipients were selected by a committee that included Vint Cerf, Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist of Google, and the so-called “Father of the Internet”; Sir Timothy Berners-Lee, Director of the World Wide Web Consortium; Mitchell Baker, CEO, Mozilla Corp.; John Seely Brown, former Chief Scientist, Xerox Corp.; and John Gage, partner, Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield, and Byers.

“Open OceanMap combines the best of GIS-based approaches for facilitating the capture, organization and dissemination of scientific data on marine life with a totally open set of tools,” said Ira Fuchs, VP for Research in Information Technology at the Mellon Foundation. “This is just the beginning. The same tool set could be used for orchestrating the collection of other kinds of environment data anywhere — this is the type of innovation that has the potential to make a real difference for fishermen, public policy planners, and others. Open OceanMap could provide a powerful platform for enhancing pro-amateur science; for example, by offering a way to get high school students more engaged in environmental studies.”

Additional information about the Mellon Awards is available at http://matc.mellon.org.

New Tools for Social Learning

Open OceanMap is part of an emerging class of Web-enabled social learning tools from Ecotrust that combine scientific rigor with social pragmatism. The tools seek to build transparency and data parity into ecosystem management, to advance a common understanding of best management practices, to connect regional and sustainable product markets, and to facilitate inquiry into social-ecological relationships.

Ecotrust is now in the process of rolling out its latest social learning tool — People and Place. People and Place is part blog, part edited journal. Each issue will present a topic for discussion — the topic for the first issue is resilience thinking — and there will be an open comment period moderated by People and Place founder Howard Silverman. Once a topic is closed, People and Place will move to the next discussion. All discussions will be publicly archived. Approximately eight to 10 issues of People and Place will appear each year.

More on the Web at http://www.peopleandplace.net.

About Ecotrust
Ecotrust advocates for better approaches to living, ones that incorporate social, economic and environmental well-being. Over nearly 20 years, Ecotrust has converted $60 million in grants into more than $300 million in capital for local people, businesses, and organizations from Alaska to California. Ecotrust is a new kind of organization, one that integrates public and private purpose and for-profit and non-profit structures. Ecotrust’s many innovations include co-founding the world’s first environmental bank, starting the world’s first ecosystem investment fund, creating a range of programs in fisheries, forestry, food, farms and children’s health, and developing new scientific and information tools to improve social, economic and environmental decision-making. Ecotrust works locally in ways that promise hope abroad, and it honors and incorporates the wisdom of native and first nation knowledge in its work. More on the Web at www.ecotrust.org.