Wild Oceans has kicked off the new year with a new 5-year strategic plan to guide us into the future. The plan outlines clear and measurable goals, objectives and strategies for four priority conservation areas: 1) Large Marine Fish Conservation, 2) Sustainable Fishing Practices, 3) Ecosystems, and 4) Climate Change.
Prior to initiating the development of a new strategic plan, our Board of Directors decided that it would be beneficial to better understand the current landscape in which we operate and how we fit into that landscape. To do this, we enlisted the aid of two highly respected veterans in the world of marine fish conservation. The primary tool to accomplish this was an online questionnaire distributed to nonprofit conservation organizations and trade groups, fisheries management entities/agencies, select leaders in the field, and academics. A total of 83 individuals received the questionnaire, of which 60 participated, an impressively high response rate. The results were quite interesting.
Respondents indicated that fishery issues related to climate change is by far the single most important emerging issue. If you follow fisheries at all, you have undoubtedly heard how rising ocean temperatures and increasing acidity are presenting challenges to fish, fishermen and those who manage them. Distribution, forage fish availability, productivity and species composition of fisheries is changing, and both fishermen and fisheries managers alike are scrambling to adapt.
When questioned specifically about large marine fish, respondents were clear that gear impacts, fishing practices and bycatch reduction were nearly as equally important as climate change. With continued advancements in technology, wider use of fish aggregating devices and the growing global demand for commercially harvested fish, the problem is only getting more complicated. It reaffirms that now more than ever, we need to keep identifying new, cleaner gear types and continue transitioning to more sustainable ways to fish — something that has been a basic tenet of our organization for decades.
Our past success at Wild Oceans has come by remaining small, focusing on a few key issues, developing expertise around those issues, and forging coalitions to get results. This approach has allowed us to stick with issues over the years and sometimes even decades, yet still remain nimble enough to change focus when emerging threats or opportunities arise. Our future success will depend on maintaining these defining characteristics.