Sustainable Fishing Trust

sustainable fishing trust

“Artisanal fisheries are of great importance in Brazil, as they are responsible for more than 50% of national fish production.”

Alpina, 2011

While automobile manufacturers have been working tirelessly to improve the fuel efficiency of their products, we have not seen a similar level of innovation in the boat building industry, the environmental impact of which is quite substantial. As an example, the tuna fishing industry alone consumed over 3 billion liters of fuel in 2009.

Many developing and emerging countries have grown so rapidly that their fishing industry lags decades behind technologically. Small scale commercial fisherman in Brazil for example still rely mostly on wooden, handmade boats that are not only unsafe but also don’t allow to fully exploit fishing grounds. There is an opportunity to support those companies seeking to change this paradigm.

The UNO Sustainable Fishing Trust seeks growth through investments in those companies poised to reinvent the boating industry, bringing large improvements in efficiency and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, while helping emerging and developing countries exploit the economic potential of their fishing industries to the fullest.

Brazil: How Fishermen Were Left Behind

The fifth largest country in the world, Brazil, is one of the fastest growing major economies. Brazil’s potential is based on solid fundamentals: a young and large population, creative mindset, good educational system, large and productive agricultural base, an abundance of natural resources and it was industrialized relatively early compared to the other BRIC countries. It is not surprising that large industrial parks have sprung up all over this vibrant and enthusiastic country.

However, one sector with tremendous potential has lagged way behind all others: the fishing industry. The current small fishing fleet in Brazil is old, outdated and unsafe. The sight of handmade wooden fishing boats going out for a day’s catch contrasts sharply with the more advanced and modern assets that have been the source of Brazil’s phenomenal growth. It has been estimated that Brazil’s fishing sector is only capitalizing on 5% of its actual fish production potential.

Brazil has over 8500 km of coastline dotted with many ports and an Exclusive Economic Zone of 4.3 million sqm. Yet, due to its small, aged fleet of boats, these highly productive fishing areas are yielding only about 1.3 million tons of seafood versus an estimated potential of 20 million tons.

Over 95% of these catches are along the near shore, the only easily accessible area for the small, handmade boats representing over 90% of Brazil’s fishing fleet. This has resulted in a trade imbalance with only EUR 188 million in exports versus a potential of over EUR 720 million. Not only does this mean a financial loss, but it also has an environmental consequence from a carbon footprint perspective as fish are transported from abroad over long distances to arrive at Brazilian fish markets and grocery stores. Tapping into its wealth of marine resources, Brazil could greatly improve the sustainability of its fishing industry while concomitantly expanding it.

Quite simply, Brazil’s fishing sector has not developed as fast as other economic sectors. Brazil needs a revolution in its fishing sector and this starts with the building of modern fishing boats.

Luckily for investors, the situation in Brazil is not unique. Across the developing world there are opportunities to bring the fishing industry up to speed with other sectors by employing the most environmentally friendly solutions possible.

The Downstream Benefit of “Greener” Boats

Developing a fleet of safe, modern and more eco-friendly fishing vessels will bring about tremendous positive downstream effects. For the fisherman, such boats would greatly increase their fishing capacity, enabling them to sell a larger percentage of their catch, also elevating their status from a socioeconomic perspective. Such boats would greatly improve safety and help reduce the number of injuries and deaths associated with marine accidents due to the instability of many artisanal boats. Having far greater technical capabilities, new boats would open new areas of the ocean for fishing and would increase the variety of species to be caught. All of these combine to increase the quality of life for the thousands of fishermen currently using gear that technologically is decades behind the rest of the world.

From a societal perspective, modernization of the developing countries’ fishing industries would help reduce the exodus of people from rural areas to cities as they could finally earn a good living from the sea. In addition, it would increase the availability of a wider range of higher quality and fresher fish for local inhabitants. One potential consequence of this is improved health due to greater fish consumption replacing less healthy protein sources such as beef. Lastly, this will help make fishermen more aware of the importance of sustainability as the demand for local “sustainably caught” fish grows at the expense of imported fish. The overall impact of having a more modern and sustainable fishing industry will be to help narrow the socioeconomic gap between fishermen and other skilled laborers.

One cannot ignore the potential positive benefits for the environment of shifting the production of fish to local companies and away from exporting countries. Delivering fish to markets from local fishermen greatly reduces the “food miles” of fish sold in markets. It will enable better monitoring of Brazil’s fishing grounds to reduce illegal fishing, which is essentially left unchecked for adherence to globally accepted fish catch limits.

Having more boats that are capable of venturing far out to sea will enable informal “patrolling” of waters to report illegal fishing vessels, which are potentially bringing in catches in excess of sustainable limits that the local fleets would more likely adhere to with a vested interest in maintaining fish populations. For example in Brazil, there has been illegal fishing in coastal waters for decades, but without a large number of local fishing boats that can venture out to the distances where it happens, it has gone largely unchecked.

Opportunities for Investments

There are several companies proposing development activities that would revolutionize the boating industry by disrupting the current fish production sector. One such company, Happy Peixe ( has already laid the groundwork for building new shipyards to produce modern, low cost fishing vessels that are, technologically speaking, light years ahead of handmade wooden boats. These new vessels constructed in new eco-friendly, high tech manufacturing facilities can enable fishermen to routinely exploit previously unreachable areas of a country’s Economic Exclusion Zone. The boats made of modern, durable materials that eliminate the need for costly and frequent repairs and maintenance, provide much more safety for the crew, especially in rough seas.

One of the biggest obstacles to modernization of fishing fleets has been the relatively large capital requirement for fishermen to replace their current handmade wooden boats with modern ones. To address this, companies like Happy Peixe have developed an innovative financial model akin to microcredit that allows fishermen to pay over time, with monthly payments low enough for most fishermen to afford. With their greatly increased catch potential, fishermen will easily be able to cover this additional monthly expense and still turn a healthy profit for themselves.

Here Comes The Sun

There are a number of new companies developing innovative power systems based on renewable energy sources. Similarly to what has been developed for the automobile industry, companies are springing up that are developing electric, hybrid and even solar powered boats. In an ironic twist, we are even seeing the return of sail-power, a centuries-old technology that has found new value in today’s world. The possibilities are endless and the prize substantial.

The UNO Sustainable Fishing Trust will help change the paradigm for the boat sector, bringing 21st century technology to an age-old industry while transforming the lives of tens of thousands of fishermen around the world.

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