Tagging sharks to monitor their survival rates, using specialist equipment to release endangered turtles and deterring seabirds with LED lights are amongst the projects being funded in 2023 by the Ocean Stewardship Fund (OSF).
Now in its fourth year, the Marine Stewardship Council commits 5% of annual royalties from sales of its certified products into the OSF. In addition, third-party philanthropic donations now contribute, helping to scale the fund and support more projects. The OSF recently announced it was aiming to raise US$100 million in the next decade to accelerate progress in sustainable fishing globally.
Amid global concerns about the depletion of ocean biodiversity, this year’s grants have a special focus on research into mitigating bycatch - that is when fish and other species not targeted by fishers are caught in nets and other fishing gear. Funds have been given to projects in Australia, Greenland, Ecuador, Papua New Guinea and Alaska.
Twenty-six grants totalling US$ 934,430 (£756,568)* are awarded to fisheries, scientists, NGOs and students from 15 countries. Of these, 40% of the grants were awarded to fisheries in emerging economies, such as South Africa and Mexico, which are aiming to improve their sustainability practises.
Among the projects funded this year, are:
• In Alaska, OSF funds will enable a new app to be developed. This will allow salmon fishers to record their interactions with Kittlitz’s and marbled murrelets to help reduce the threats facing these seabirds. This is an initiative led by the indigenous communities.
• In Ecuador, the OSF will fund a research project tagging silky sharks accidentally caught by the fishery. Harnessing satellite technology when they release the sharks into the wild will help scientists estimate survival rates and better protect this vulnerable species.
• In Reunion, in the Indian Ocean, the OSF grant will enable fishers to receive training and specialist kit, so that vulnerable loggerhead sea turtles can be safely handled and released. As part of the project, fishers will monitor their locations using GPS to avoid future interactions with the creatures.
Since the Ocean Stewardship Fund was established, it has issued over 100 grants totalling US$4.9 million (approx £3.9 million)* to deliver lasting change. These have supported a wide range of projects which aim to improve the health of stocks, manage harvesting levels carefully and protect the marine environment, for example by identifying and mapping seabed habitats.
Rupert Howes, Chief Executive of the MSC, said:
“My heartfelt congratulations to all the 2023 Ocean Stewardship Fund awardees. These projects will generate new knowledge and insights that will help fisheries improve the way they fish the oceans by reducing bycatch and fishers’ interactions with vulnerable species and birds.
“We are delighted to see multi-sector collaborations applying for funding with fishers, NGOs and scientists submitting joint applications. Such partnerships are essential if we are to scale solutions and respond to the urgent challenges facing our oceans. We particularly welcome applications that are able to use MSC’s Ocean Stewardship Fund to leverage other resources to deliver real and lasting change beyond the immediate project recipients.”
“As our global population grows, the ocean will be increasingly important for communities that depend on it both for jobs and as a source of nutritious, healthy aquatic foods. The Ocean Stewardship Fund is helping to drive the innovation and progress needed, to harness the potential of our ocean.”