Implementing improvements in fisheries and aquaculture production to protect the ocean, conserve marine life and increase food and livelihood security.
The ocean is the biggest food system on our planet, by area. It not only feeds billions but also provides livelihoods for hundreds of millions of people. Conservation International works to protect marine life and improve the well-being of ocean-dependent communities. By promoting responsible fishing and aquaculture practices through partnerships and investments, we ensure a more sustainable journey from sea to table.
Three out of seven people depend on the ocean as their primary source of protein1.
The ocean contributes more than US$ 2.5 trillion per year toward the global economy2.
Every year, one in five fish is caught illegally, disrupting economic opportunities for fishing communities and reducing food security3.
Worldwide, 600 million livelihoods depend at least partially on fisheries and aquaculture4. Small-scale fisheries employ 90% of all workers in the sector5.
Only 40% of global seafood production is currently certified as sustainable or assessed for sustainability status6.
What we do
Conservation International is dedicated to ensuring food security and livelihoods throughout the entire seafood supply chain. We support resilient coastal community fisheries, sustainable tuna and responsible aquaculture. We actively partner with the private sector, lead global initiatives and advocate for policy reforms to drive greater investment in sustainability and social responsibility. Our focus is to protect the human rights of fishers and fishworkers worldwide, ensuring their well-being through responsible practices.
Today, we work in more than 20 countries spanning South and Central America, the Caribbean, Pacific Islands, Africa and Southeast Asia. Our projects cover a vast expanse of over 15 million square kilometers (5.8 million square miles) of ocean habitat and are helping to improve food security and livelihoods for tens of thousands of people.
Coastal Community Fisheries
Conservation International is transforming small-scale fisheries through its Community Fishery Improvement Project model. This approach actively engages and empowers local fishers to improve social, economic and environmental practices in their business operations. By moving away from the traditional top-down approach, we ensure that these fisheries improvements directly contribute to the well-being of communities.
Conservation International is working to make tuna fisheries more sustainable through policy and market-based approaches. We bring together governments, business leaders, technical experts, and Indigenous communities to identify and implement environmental, social, and economic improvements in tuna fisheries.
Conservation International partners with governments, producers, supply chain companies, financial institutions and leading scientists to develop and scale new models for aquaculture production that minimize harmful environmental impacts, support improved food security and economic development, and provide important biodiversity and climate adaptation benefits.
Human Rights in Fisheries
Conservation International is committed to protecting the human rights of fishworkers and ocean-dependent communities around the world. We do this by creating new tools to assess and address human rights risks, using scientific evidence to promote fair economies and advocating for global policies that prioritize justice. Using a human rights-based approach, we focus on ensuring the well-being of fishery-dependent communities, addressing illegal fishing and rights abuses, and promoting transparency in these critical areas.
Conservation International works across industries to change the way the world does business, helping companies take bold steps toward environmental sustainability and social responsibility. As part of our work to advance sustainable and socially equitable seafood supply chains, we partner with retailers and seafood buyers to improve purchasing policies and practices, conduct human rights due diligence and establish connections to coastal communities.
How we do it
In our work, we focus on critical seafood-producing regions to implement comprehensive solutions on a larger scale. Our conservation initiatives are built on three interrelated approaches that work together to maximize our conservation impact and ensure the long-term effectiveness of our efforts:
We are helping fishers, aquaculture operators and communities adopt sustainable and equitable practices. By doing so, we aim to enhance food security and promote responsible engagement in fisheries, aquaculture and the expanding blue economy. Drawing upon our experience in the field and established relationships in communities, our initiatives are designed to engage and prioritize the voices of fishworkers and communities, and to respect Indigenous and local people’s rights to harvest and their vision for marine management.
We work with investors and innovators to create new ways of financing conservation efforts. Our goal is to connect buyers in the market directly with the producers on the ground. By doing this, we support sustainable and fair businesses.
Effective management systems and policies allow communities and markets to function efficiently. We support equity and justice-centered policy reforms that incentivize sustainable production practices, promote decent work and the well-being of Indigenous and local communities. We also protect the critical ecosystems that sustain economic activities. This work is grounded in a strong foundation of science, knowledge and collaboration.
Our work in practice
In Indonesia and Ecuador, Conservation International and in-country partners Konservasi Indonesia and Conservation International-Ecuador are implementing climate smart pilot projects that supports shrimp production by providing loans and technical assistance to shrimp farmers while restoring mangroves in critical areas. Globally, this approach could restore up to 1.7 million hectares of mangrove forests, while increasing responsible shrimp production.
Through decades of work in close collaboration with coastal fishing communities, Conservation International has developed a framework to increase sustainable small-scale seafood production. Through our Community Fishery Improvement Projects, we are driving environmental, social and economic improvements in small-scale fisheries across 15 countries. Our success is centered on building a trustworthy, transparent production chain and we work to ensure adequate incentives are available to fishing communities towards that aim. Through Conservation International’s EcoGourmet program, we connect small-scale fishers directly to local and domestic buyers to ensure equitable market access for sustainably harvested fish, with transparent sourcing and fair prices.
Conservation International is partnering with 14 Pacific Island countries and regional agencies to jointly create a comprehensive plan for enhancing the climate resilience of the region’s tuna fisheries. With a large-scale funding proposal officially endorsed by the Green Climate Fund, this initiative will result in better management of approximately 40 million square kilometers (15 million square miles) of ocean area and directly support food security and livelihoods for over four million local people.
Each week, local fisheries in the Galápagos Islands generate approximately 4,500 pounds of waste from fish processing. Conservation International has launched a pilot program to transform this waste into plant fertilizer and protein-rich food supplements for farm animals, thereby reducing the Galápagos Islands’ reliance on importing these products and demonstrating how this solution might be scaled and applied to other places.
In 2021, Conservation International-Peru and the Center for Oceans, in partnership with Arizona State University, completed The Decent Work in Fisheries Initiative to assess the overlap between human rights violations at sea and overfishing in marine fisheries. This new study produced insights into human rights issues in the Peruvian Humbolt Squid fishery, informing globally relevant solutions for protecting fishworkers’ rights and safety at sea.
News about fisheries and aquaculture
- UN FAO State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (Sofi 2020)
- UNCTAD Advancing the Potential of Sustainable Ocean-based Economies: Trade Trends, Market Drivers and Market Access (2021)
- Agnew, David J., et al. [https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0004570]
- UN FAO State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2022
- UN FAO Illuminating Hidden Harvests: The contributions of small-scale fisheries to sustainable development (2023)