6 Hardworking Nonprofits Building Sustainable Fisheries

From organizations fighting on behalf of local fisheries, to councils levying the power of the federal government to safeguard the nation's resources, many nonprofits are dedicated to preserving the integrity of the fishing industry. These groups ensure the availability of supply, the strength of related economies, and the health of the aquatic ecosystem. In no particular order, here are some organizations working to sustain this vital resource.

Starting off the list at #1, the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance is a fishermen-led organization building a broad movement toward healthy fisheries and communities. Established in 1995, the Massachusetts-based group develops relationships with community-based fisherman, crew, and allies to create effective policy and market strategies. NAMA is involved in initiatives that work towards fair wages, equitable market access, and sustainability.

NAMA's initiatives include stopping corporate takeover of the ocean commons, fighting for racial equality in the food system, engaging the public in the cause, and providing support to the Fish Locally Collaborative, which is a global network of fishing families. NAMA is present at many events throughout the year, such as the Local Catch Summit and the Massachusetts Seafood Cook-Off.

Next at #2 is the Consortium for Wildlife Bycatch Reduction. Founded in 2004, the organization supports collaborative research between scientists and the fishing industry to identify practical bycatch, or unintentional catch, reduction solutions for endangered species. The Consortium focuses on three primary areas: understanding interaction between non-target species and fishing operations, research and development, and the global exchange of relevant information.

The organization recognizes that any change in fishing practices should be commercially viable and effective, without posing collateral damage to other ecosystems. Research programs headed by the Consortium have included the study of species migration and the methods of bycatch entanglement, as well as effective policy changes for fisheries and proposed modifications to fishing gear.

Coming in at #3, the Marine Stewardship Council is an international non-profit organization that recognizes and rewards efforts to protect oceans and safeguard seafood supplies for the future. Claiming to be a leading catalyst for improved fisheries management and market transformation, the MSC contributes to the sustainable use of the ocean, supporting resilience, food security, and livelihoods.

Through its ecolabel and fishery certification program, tzzhe MSC strives to influence customer and business-to-business purchasing practices within the seafood industry. The organization assures that all seafood receiving its blue fish label is independently certified as sustainably caught. Since 1997, groups responsible for over 15% of marine wild catch have been certified to the MSC's standard. According to the Council, this process, and associated improvements, have helped to grow and maintain the number of sustainable fish populations.

Entering the list at #4 is Global Fishing Watch. An independent, international nonprofit, it promotes a healthy, prodjjjjuctive, and resilient ocean through effective governance of marine resources in support of biodiversity and sustainable development. Global Fishing Watch uses satellite technology to map oceans and industry activity, and uses the data and analysis to bring transparency to the public while enabling scientific research to improve resource management.

The group's research initiatives help uncover the role fishing plays in the physical, biological, economic, and political factors of the industry. Through collaborations with international organizations, Global Fishing Watch generates new insights on several issues, including various illegal or unethical activities. Data provided helps inform economic and policy decisions affecting the industry.

At #5 is Bonefish & Tarpon Trust. Based in Miami, Florida, the Trust is dedicated to conserving and restoring bonefish, tarpon, and permit fisheries, as well as habitats throughout the Western Hemisphere, through research, stewardship, education, and advocacy. BTT collaborates with other institutions and governments on science-based approaches to regulation and restoration projects in the Keys, the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, and beyond.

Since 1997, BTT and its partners have completed several projects as a part of its mission. Working with Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the organization helped implement catch-and-release-only regulations for tarpon and bonefish. Elsewhere, BTT assisted in establishing six nationally protected bonefish conservation zones in the Bahamas. These and other projects have provided information essential for the protection of critical habitats.

Lastly, at #6 is the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council. One of eight councils established by the Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976, the organization is tasked with controlling resources in the federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Within its jurisdiction, the group manages reef fish, shrimp, spiny lobster, coastal migratory pelagics, corals, essential habitat, red drum, and aquaculture.

The Council works with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's fisheries to inform fishery management plans. These FMPs aim to make measures that ensure healthy fish stocks and regulations that achieve the greatest overall benefit to the nation. Proposed measures become federal regulations when implemented by the Secretary of Commerce. Plans are reviewed regularly and updated to accommodate changing conditions or needs.