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Environmental Philanthropy: Stories to Inspire

Aligning financial markets with sustainable seafood

Carbon Tracker is the organisation that developed the idea of the ‘carbon bubble’ and the associated concept of ‘stranded assets’. They calculated that we will only be able to use 20 per cent of known oil and gas reserves if the international community respects its own commitment to stay within 2°C of global temperature rise. The oil and gas companies that hold those reserves are therefore overvalued. 

The idea proved to have a great deal of leverage, but what interests us here is the way Mark Campanale, its developer, decided to apply the same approach to fish, creating a programme previously known as Fish Tracker and now rebranded as Seafood Tracker. Given that we are overfishing the oceans, many of the big fishing companies are probably overvalued and, just as for oil and gas, investors should stay away from, or at least be aware of, the associated investment risk of declining and more dispersed fish stocks. 

We were the first funder of the now Seafood Tracker, helping to support the development of a robust methodology and the publication of its first report, ‘Empty Nets: How over-fishing risks leaving investors stranded’. Being the first to fund an initiative like this can be catalytic: it shows other funders you think it’s a good idea, paving the way for more money to flow in – which is exactly what happened in this instance. Since our support of their fish work, the founders of Carbon Tracker have created an overarching not-for-profit think tank, Planet Tracker, to focus on natural capital across three programmes: Oceans; Food and Land Use; and Materials, which covers plastics and textiles. 

Seafood Tracker has continued to evolve, publishing major reports across both wildcatch and aquaculture sectors. Notably, Perfect Storm, derived directly from Empty Nets, deep-dived into the Japanese wildcatch fishing industry. The report has been presented internationally in Tokyo, London and New York to over 150 key influential investors and companies. Gaining global media attention in publications such as the Financial Times, Seafood Tracker is now well on its way to being a key player in helping to align capital flows with environmental sustainability. Ultimately, we hope this will help protect marine life and our dependence on it as a source of food. 

Funding this initiative taught me that it is worth supporting a lateral thinker – in this case Mark Campanale – who developed a methodology for one issue and applied it effectively to another.