According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), commercial and recreational fisheries had combined sales impacts of over $199 billion in the U.S. in 2011. However, some U.S. fisheries are struggling, both biologically and economically. As of 2011, NOAA reported that 39 stocks are categorized as overfished and 32 are categorized as subject to overfishing.
To increase revenue and provide additional access and fishing opportunities for both commercial and recreational fishermen, NFWF launched the Fisheries Innovation Fund in 2010. The Fund is a grant program designed to foster innovation in the fishing industry in order to sustain fishermen’s livelihoods while rebuilding fish stocks. It supports the participation of fishermen and their communities in securing sustainable fisheries in the U.S.
Funding priorities for this program include:
- Community capacity-building
- Bycatch reduction initiatives
- Sustainable fishing practices
- Improvement in the quality, quantity and timeliness of fisheries-dependent data.
To date, the Fisheries Innovation Fund has awarded $5.5 million to 50 projects in the Northeast, the mid-Atlantic, the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, the Pacific coast, Alaska and the Great Lakes to:
- Create regional or community fishing associations and advance community-supported fisheries
- Design and implement harvest and quota systems that work for small-scale fishermen
- Provide business and technical assistance to fishermen
- Employ new cost-effective monitoring and reporting tools
- Reduce bycatch.
Most projects have originated directly with fishermen to address local challenges and opportunities at the community level. The funds invested from FIF are expected to be matched by nearly $4.96 million from the grantees.
Major funding for the program is provided by NOAA, The Walton Family Foundation, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Mitigation funds received through NFWF's Recovered Oil Fund for Wildlife have also contributed to the program, with grantee organizations and additional public and private funders providing matching funds.