The Waitt and MacArthur foundations cast a line for coastal recovery

An ambitious partnership to restore coastal fisheries in the developing tropics received a catalytic boost this summer. The Waitt and MacArthur foundations granted a total of $2 million for Fish Forever. Fish Forever is an innovative global initiative to empower thousands of coastal communities to sustainably manage their own fisheries, while increasing food security, safeguarding jobs and conserving important marine habitats and species. Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Rare and University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), formed the Fish Forever partnership to build on a strong foundation of distinct experiences and successes in delivering fishery solutions.

“This program is big and audacious — just the kind of thing we need in ocean conservation.” -Ted Waitt, chairman of the Waitt Foundation

“What is particularly appealing about Fish Forever is how it brings together three strong partners that represent different competencies of work that needs to be done, but has never been combined in such a robust way,” says Kate Barnes, program associate at the MacArthur Foundation.


A Fisher in Amlan, Philippines, hauls in his catch.

EDF is a global leader in transforming fisheries through rights-based management and strategic fishery design. Rare helps local communities adopt more sustainable behaviors and generates support for change through Pride campaigns. Pride campaigns form Rare’s signature program, an undertaking that builds pride around unique natural assets through commercial marketing techniques. UCSB’s Sustainable Fisheries Group lends expertise in fisheries recovery analysis, helps select viable Fish Forever sites and forecasts potential economic and biological benefits.

“The partnership itself is groundbreaking,” says Jacob James, managing director of the Waitt Foundation. “It is the truest form of institutionalized collaboration.”

Fish Forever aligns with the Waitt Foundation’s stated vision of “restoring our oceans to full productivity”. At an annual grantee meeting in 2009, foundation chairman Ted Waitt saw the potential in the three organizations and contributed $100,000 in seed funding to encourage the partnership’s development.

“Fish Forever addresses one of the most serious issues of our time: the decline of global fisheries,” says Waitt. “This program is big and audacious — just the kind of thing we need in ocean conservation. The Waitt Foundation invested in Fish Forever because it has scalable management and financing mechanisms that we hope will lead to the adoption of Fish Forever’s community-based management approach into official policy.”

Likewise, Fish Forever’s goals match those of the MacArthur Foundation’s to expand local fishery management in order to conserve biodiversity and fishery services on an ecologically meaningful scale. Jorgen Thomsen, director of conservation and sustainable development at the MacArthur Foundation, participated on the steering committee that developed Fish Forever.

According to MacArthur’s Barnes, other conservation models demonstrate how elements of the Fish Forever strategy work at specific sites within a particular economic and political structure. Fish Forever will identify trends that lead to improved fisheries, livelihoods and biodiversity conservation at scale. Barnes says, “I think we have confirmed that this will work because of the track record of the three organizations.”

8 Elements of Success

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