What Cheryl Dahle, Founder and Executive Director of Future of Fish (FoF), is solving:
Of the 145 million metric tons of fish harvested annually worldwide, nearly 80 million metric tons come from the oceans. Today, marine fish populations are in serious trouble due to overfishing, ecosystem degradation, and inept fisheries management. Unless significant changes are made to how we harvest and consume seafood, many popular fish species could be commercially extinct by mid-century (FAO, 2010).
According to leading marine fisheries researchers, upward of 85 percent of the world’s wild fisheries either are being fished at the maximum rate that would allow for replenishment, or are already overexploited, depleted, or recovering from depletion (FAO, 2010).
The FAO suggests that “peak fish”—the maximum wild capture fisheries potential from the world’s oceans—was reached in 1996. In short, there are too many boats on the water and too many people going after the same fish. Some estimates place the worldwide fishing fleet at 200-300 percent of current ocean capacity. This overcapacity is difficult to resolve simply, as removing subsidies and revoking fishing rights can result in vast numbers of unemployed fishers with little ability (or local economic opportunities) to switch careers (World Bank, 2008).
Loss of Biodiversity
Overfishing, destructive fishing methods, coastal development, climate change (ocean warming and acidification), and pollution from agricultural and industrial run-off can severely impact ocean habitats and biodiversity. More than 100 species of fish are currently listed as threatened species. Ecosystems with higher naturally occurring biodiversity (i.e., species richness) are more stable and are less likely to experience collapses of commercially important fisheries (UNEP, 2010 [pdf]).
Non-selective fishing gear, like trawlers, gillnets, and some longlines, can result in huge amounts of bycatch—the harvest of untargeted species, including birds, dolphins, sea turtles, and other edible fish. Depending on how and where it is caught, harvesting one pound of shrimp, for example, can result in as much as 62 pounds of non-shrimp bycatch. Estimates of annual bycatch worldwide vary depending on the methodology, but are between 7 million and 38 million metric tons. Not only is this collateral damage a further threat to already vulnerable wild fish populations, but nearly all bycatch goes to waste (Marine Policy, 2009; FAO, 2005).
Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing is a significant environmental and economic problem. Especially on the high seas and in the developing world where regulation and enforcement are non-existent or where fisheries governance is weak and underfunded, IUU fishing threatens both the sustainable management of marine resources and the livelihoods of local fishing households. The true costs of these illicit practices are unknowable, but estimates are that between $10 billion and $24 billion worth of IUU fish are caught worldwide per year (FAO, 2010).
Cheryl Dahle's Breakthrough Approach and Strategy for Addressing this Crisis:
"The Future of Fish incubator has been operational for 15 months. We support 15 entrepreneurs and have six active projects that cover industry stuck points ranging from traceability technology to supply chain re-design using forward contracts and cost-plus pricing, strategies that bring stability to other commodity markets. Our work is informed by an analysis of the complex, systemic problem of overfishing that surfaced the "holes" in our collective efforts to solve it. That research included sending anthropologists into the supply chain to identify where change was getting stuck. We visited 8 sites on 4 continents, observing processing facilities in China, fish farms in Canada, and distribution centers in the United States.
Our insights led us to tackle the hurdles that prevent the middle of the supply chain from becoming part of the solution to overfishing, including a lack of perceived incentives to innovate, a culture that inhibits long-term vision, a value proposition that is at odds with the reality of seafood scarcity, and inadequate inventory tracking and warehousing technology that result in between 30 and 70 percent of fish being mislabeled in the marketplace. We believe that by launching and supporting a group of networked entrepreneurs whose ideas, technology and practices re-set standards for the supply chain, we can drive the market to adopt more responsible approaches to profitmaking. By connecting entrepreneurs at different levels of the supply chain, we foster a cooperative network whose ability to partner makes its impact more than the sum of its parts.
What the Buckminster Fuller Challenge Review Team said about this year's Runner Up:
Founded in 2010, Future of Fish (FoF) brings to light the power of combining rigorous design thinking with a comprehensive systems view of a given problem space. Cheryl Dahle, founder of FoF, is applying this approach to the massive crisis of overharvesting that threatens the world’s wild marine fisheries with collapse. She has developed pragmatic processes for understanding this complex system and is incubating innovative market based models that are designed to drive second order change in the sector.
The FoF team has broad experience working at the intersection of business and social change. Before launching FoF, Dahle was a director at Ashoka, where she distilled knowledge from the organization’s network of 2,500 fellows in order to provide strategic insight to foundations and corporations. Dahle spent more than a decade writing about social entrepreneurship. She founded and led Fast Company’s Social Capitalist awards, a competition to surface top social entrepreneurs. As the project manager, she helped design an evaluation methodology to measure compelling models for change.
FoF was born out of a research partnership led by Cheryl Dahle which included The David and Lucile Packard Foundation (currently FoF’s primary funder), Ashoka Change Makers, and Central, a design strategy firm. Through this process Dahle learned that over the last decade funding and policy change was directed, almost exclusively, toward two areas: adoption of sustainable fishing practices and reducing consumption of overharvested fish at the retail level. She also discovered that the middle of the supply chain, namely fish processing and distribution, was a largely ignored stuck point at the heart of the fisheries crisis.
So Dahle decided to put her extensive knowledge of social entrepreneurship to work by incubating a “cohort” of “co–entrepreneurs” consisting of industry pioneers and innovators, (16 so far with more on the waiting list), that were selected for their ability to transform this neglected part of the supply chain. Instead of just supporting each entrepreneur on an individual basis in growing their own business, as is typical in most incubators, FoF leads its cohort, representing all levels of the supply chain, through processes that amplify the success of others in the group. This gives FoF the ability to foster greater industry change than any one business could accomplish alone.
The clarity and strength of the FoF strategy, its pioneering quality, its counterintuitive, out-of-the- box insights, its holistic methodology, its applicability to other sectors, all adds up to FoF having the potential to be a critical trim tab in transforming the multi-billion dollar fishing industry and desitined to be an important model for 21st century social enterprise and impact investing.
Future of Fish Executive Summary
Future of Fish Full Report
The Buckminster Fuller Challenge
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