Common ground. A shared vision. The power of collective action. Solving fisheries challenges. Connected by purpose. These were common refrains shared by the over 100 mayors and local government leaders around the world who gathered virtually for the launch of the Coastal 500—the largest global network of mayors and local government leaders committed to work towards thriving and prosperous coastal communities.
“There are thousands of mayors and leaders like me,” said Mayor Greman B. Solante of Tudela, Philippines. “And think—if we work together, learn from each other, and inspire each other, we can accomplish so much.”
The Coastal 500, launched on this year’s World Ocean Day with support from Rare’s Fish Forever program, aims to unite 500 mayors and local government leaders with a uniform pledge for action on coastal fisheries. Leaders pledge to ensure food and economic security for coastal communities by sustainably managing coastal ocean waters. The network will amplify the voices of mayors and other local government leaders representing millions of small-scale fishing families across the developing tropics.
“Local communities are incubators for innovative, locally-led solutions, and it is the responsibility of national government and the global community to support these efforts at scale,” said Dr. Christiane Paulus, Director General for Nature Conservation and Sustainable Use of Natural Resources at the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMU).
During the event, Teddy Baguilat, Council President of the global ICCA Consortium, stressed the urgency for unity and action. “As oceans become more polluted and fishing communities become poorer, you—representing the governments in coastal areas—are asked to step up and save the planet by listening to the wisdom of the past and the voices of our fisherfolk.” The launch event gathered more than 250 participants, including local leaders representing over 100 coastal municipalities from eight countries, as well as community representatives, allies, and other supporters, to celebrate a shared commitment to oceans and coastal fisheries.
“Local governments are the closest to the people, the land, and the waters, so we need to have our voices heard. The Coastal 500 is a great opportunity for voices to be heard together,” said keynote speaker Gregor Robertson, former three-term mayor of Vancouver, Canada, currently serving as Global Ambassador of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy.
A distressed ocean directly impacts the two hundred million people worldwide whose livelihoods depend on coastal fisheries. Coastal fisheries comprise the thin band of ocean 12 nautical miles from shore and are home to most of the ocean’s biodiversity. According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, approximately one in five people globally depend on fish as a significant animal protein source.
Fish Forever is a global movement to reverse overfishing, protect biodiversity, and safeguard millions of people’s food security and livelihoods. “The Coastal 500 was born out of the recognition of the importance of local governance,” said Dr. Steve Box, Fish Forever Managing Director. “The local political leadership and strong political will you represent is the cornerstone of lasting change for coastal fisheries. We’ve already seen this network grow from pledges to actions, and we’re thrilled to learn from each other and grow together.”
One of the network’s first actions is to release a joint public statement that reaffirms a commitment to work towards a shared goal. The statement presents areas of alignment in tackling important issues like Covid-19 recovery, productive rural economies, and elevating the role of women, Indigenous Peoples, and ethnic minorities in managing their resources. This statement is also a call to action for the 2022 International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture.
Antha Williams, global head of the environment program at Bloomberg Philanthropies, which supports Fish Forever and the Coastal 500, closed the event by illustrating the importance of networks like the Global Covenant, the C-40 Climate Leadership Group, and Climate Mayors. “As mayors work together, these networks provide much-needed pathways for communication and connection. Above all, our work with mayors around the world has demonstrated to us the inherent change-making power in local leadership. That’s why the Coastal 500 initiative resonates so much with the focus of our work at Bloomberg Philanthropies.”
What’s next for the Coastal 500
Going forward, the network will guide committed mayors and local leaders to act on their commitments. An Action Guidebook in multiple languages will provide leaders with resources for implementing solutions for coastal communities. A digital bank of resources and tools, virtual learning sessions, and peer-to-peer exchanges will offer the opportunity for connection and continued learning.
Honduran Fisher leader Julio César Rodriguez encourages us all to take action. “Fishing is a universal language among us. It maintains our bond and stops us from migrating. And it’s a great source of pride and joy. But we are in a race against time, and our lives are at stake. The time to act is now.”