Rare at the Seaweb Seafood Summit

Building tomorrow’s sustainable markets to benefit communities and consumers

July 17, 2017

In early June, nearly 600 representatives from government, business, academia and nonprofits convened in Seattle for the Seaweb Seafood Summit. The 13th Annual Event featured a range of diverse speakers on the theme of “Evolving Today’s Trends into Tomorrow’s Sustainable Markets.” Two Rare experts spoke on panels, sharing their experiences with markets-oriented approaches for small-scale fisheries conservation.

Manuel Bueno, Markets Director at Rare, addressed the conference at a packed plenary session on “developing an investment and finance toolkit for sustainable fisheries and aquaculture.” There, Bueno highlighted the work of the Meloy Fund, the first impact fund focused solely on near-shore fishing enterprises in the developing tropics. The Meloy Fund made its first investment in the Philippines-based company Meliomar in December 2016.

Though there’s growing interest in impact investing for oceans among many groups, including development and fisheries practitioners, it’s nascent compared to investment in agriculture and other sectors. As a pioneering fund, a particular point of focus in discussing the Meloy Fund was its catalytic impact and crowding-in of additional investors and private sector businesses to support the transition of coastal fisheries to sustainability. Detailing that impact, Bueno discussed the sharing of the Fund’s Environmental and Social Guidelines for Fisheries Impact Investing, a first in the sector and which debuted at the World Ocean Summit in February. He also described plans to develop partnerships with key markets players, including co-investors, and the Fund’s widespread dissemination of upcoming fisheries investment tools to like-minded investors. Joined by experts from the fields of social enterprise (SmartFish), impact investing (Catch Invest, Althelia and Impact Capitalyst), and conservation (Environmental Defense Fund and Conservation International), Bueno shared lessons learned and the projected road ahead based on the Meloy Fund’s track record to date.

Natural resource economist Antonius Gagern spoke on the panel, “using markets to broker fisheries reform in Asia,” which explored markets-oriented approaches to sustainable fisheries management that go beyond bio-certifications. Gagern spoke on the various methods that Rare utilizes around the world to financially incentivize and enable fishers to practice fishing methods that allow overfished stocks to recover.

A new partnership was announced alongside the panel, seeking to achieve the same end by setting tropical small-scale fisheries on a pathway to sustainability — one that is recognized by key markets, both domestically and internationally. The unique partnership brings together entrepreneurs, scientists and practitioners to drive sustainability in seafood supply chains. Partners include Rare, The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch® program, The Asian Seafood Improvement Collaborative and Salty Girl Seafood.


The partnership will create a path for fishing communities to link to commercially viable supply chains both domestically and abroad.


Specifically, the partners will design and test a globally recognized improvement protocol that delivers Seafood Watch’s “Good Alternative” consumer ratings for fish, a key indicator used by major retailers when making purchasing decisions. By better incorporating the context of tropical small-scale fisheries — including available resources and data — into sustainable seafood, the partnership will create a path for fishing communities to link to commercially viable supply chains both domestically and abroad.

And these are no small markets. According to a recent report by the State of Sustainability Initiatives project, retail sales of sustainable seafood reached $11.5 billion in 2016, gaining significant market share and outpacing the growth of conventional seafood sales by a factor of ten. Beyond simply leveraging this significant consumer purchasing power, “the true value of this work is in building sustainable fisheries that support local fishing communities and contribute to domestic market access, food security and livelihoods,” said Jennifer Dianto Kemmerly, Director of Global Fisheries and Aquaculture at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.