During a global pandemic, what happens to the world’s fishermen? This week, nonprofit Future of Fish announced its plans for supporting fishers and fishing communities in this unprecedented time.
The spread and devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought much of the world to a standstill. But fish are still swimming as usual, and small-scale fishers around the globe still depend on the oceans for their livelihood, and their communities’ food security. But fishers are struggling, given that billions of people are confined to their homes, the global economy is in turmoil, supply chains have been disrupted, and they can no longer sell or distribute their fish as usual.
Future of Fish is an international non-profit that works with small scale fishers to empower thriving coastal communities, ensure food security and achieve long term social and environmental impact. Since the COVID-19 crisis began, the organization has quickly shifted from longer-term interventions to address the immediate pain points of their partners on the ground.
After spending a few weeks with ears to the ground, talking to fishers, partners, and other NGOs, Future of Fish has announced a new suite of rapid-response interventions intended to alleviate immediate challenges and help fishers navigate this crisis. “Supporting fishers has always been our priority. Now, mid crisis, we continue our commitment to small-scale fishers, and to working in ways that aim to build resiliency and lay foundations for positive long-term change” says Momo Kochen, Director Global Programs.
A partial list of the new initiatives include:
· Supporting direct sales from fishers to open air market vendors in Chile. This project leverages the changing dynamics of crisis and the willingness of our partners including the fishing communities, ECOS, Feria y Mar and the South African based tech group Abalobi to rapidly test the benefits of digital platforms to connect supply chain nodes and facilitate transactions.
· A public campaign to build demand for locally-caught seafood in Peru. While Peru is known for its seafood, seafood sales have dropped substantially since the coronavirus crisis began. Working with partner NGOs, fishers, chefs, and local media outlets, this campaign promotes seafood as a source of nutrition and a way to support Peruvian fishers — essential workers that help keep the nation fed and healthy.
· Re-aligning supply chains and processes to increase the flow of fish under safe conditions from coastal landing sites in Peru directly to market centers and direct to customers. This project aims to help improve access to seafood for consumers, and secure continued income for fishers at a time when regular supply chains just aren’t working, with simple fixes such as Facebook ‘buy and sell’ groups and partnership building to aid logistics.
· Working with a local fishing cooperative in Belize to assess market options and secure funds to support operational updates to be COVID-compliant within their processing plant.
Throughout the development of these new initiatives, Future of Fish remains in constant communication with partner fishers to assess changing needs and help connect fishers to resources. “Supporting the fishers and communities that we work with is the heart of our mission,” says Executive Director Peter Battisti. “They are on the frontlines, and their work is essential to building and maintaining sustainable fisheries now and in the future.”
With coordinated efforts, and the help of partners like Future of Fish, small-scale fishers and the communities that rely on them will persevere, facing the hardships presented by the pandemic with hope and solidarity. Despite the challenging times, there’s a whole lot of grit and creativity happening in the seafood world: the determination and adaptation of small-scale fishers will help see them through this pandemic and other challenges to come.