An interview with Antha N. Williams
Mongabay: Oceans are one of the foundation’s top priorities via its Vibrant Oceans Initiative. What are its main strategies?
Williams: 3+ billion people depend on oceans to live, so we’ve always considered the protection of ocean ecosystems to be a key priority for our environment initiatives. We launched the Vibrant Oceans Initiative in 2014 as a partnership between scientists, NGOs, and governments in three countries, and now we’re active in more than 10 countries. Our main strategies are working in local communities, advocating for policy change, increasing fishing transparency in national waters, and protecting critical and highly vulnerable habitats, like coral reefs.
We constantly rely on science, data, and the latest technology to monitor our progress, guide our decision-making, and act where we can have the most impact. For example, we’ve been working with our partners to identify which reefs are most climate-resilient and should be targeted for conservation if we want to maintain spawning grounds for fish and keep feeding coastal communities.
We also work with top fishing nations at the highest level to reform and enforce national policies that help stop overfishing and destructive fishing practices. In Chile, we were able to measure the recovery of jack mackerel with over 390% more fish in coastal areas. This incredible outcome in a limited amount of time highlights that governments are agents of change and regulation has an important role to play in protecting our shared marine resources.
Another cornerstone of our approach is to focus on empowering local communities to manage their resources in a scalable way. This is something that has proved even more important when countries entered lockdown due to COVID-19 and fishermen and women provided essential sources of food whilst guaranteeing a minimum level of income for their community.
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