October 2016 (10:1)

Issue PDF archive:

Dear MEAM readers,

In May of this year, MEAM released a new resource to make it easier for current and future practitioners to find training opportunities that increase their knowledge base and skills and learn from others’ experiences. We have updated this compilation with information on new opportunities such as including:

And for those wishing for a thorough analysis of the state of existing academic education and professional training in MSP, a new publication in Marine Policy is available. (Interested parties are encouraged to contact the authors for a copy.)

Best wishes for your work,
Sarah Carr
MEAM Editor

For decades, the idea of ‘socially responsible investing’ meant little more than not including companies considered to have a negative social or environmental impact in an investment portfolio. Increasingly, investors are seeking to fund ventures or initiatives that actively achieve positive (and measurable) social or environmental results – while still generating financial returns. These “impact investments” can be made in both emerging and developed markets. And they can tolerate a range of returns, from below-market to above-market rates.

Getting capital from investors to projects

Impact investing capital can flow to projects in a variety of ways including:

  • Equity financing in which a company sells stock or shares to investors
  • Fixed income financing in which companies or governments borrow money from investors with an obligation to pay back the principal plus interest (also referred to as debt financing; this includes the sale of bonds)
  • Lines of credit in which investors arrange for a line of credit to be extended to the borrower, and
  • Loan guarantees in which investors assume all or a portion of the debt obligation of a borrower if the borrower were to default.

The potential for private capital entering the marine conservation and management field is considerable. A 2016 report by Credit Suisse and McKinsey Center for Business and Environment estimated a total conservation finance investment potential of US$200-400 billion between 2016 and 2020. To learn more about the potential and current state of impact investing for ocean ecosystems and users, MEAM spoke with two marine impact investing experts:

  • Melissa Walsh is the principal of Marine Conservation Finance Consulting, a consulting firm that provides conservation financial strategy development, marine offsets, impact investing, and sustainable agriculture expertise. She can be contacted at melissa [at] marineconservationfinance.com.
  • Ian Dutton is the principal of Nautilus Impact Investing, a firm which provides strategy, evaluation and training services to help social and environmental project investors and implementers secure a better return on their investments. He can be contacted at ian [at] nautilusii.com.

MEAM: Can you tell us about some impact investing projects dealing with the ocean environment or ocean users?

Walsh: The short answer is that ideas and capital are plentiful, but examples of successful marine impact investments are very rare. I've completed a global analysis of impact investment opportunities and challenges for marine conservation, and only found a handful of examples of projects that meet the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) definition of impact investing and deliver marine benefits (publication forthcoming). The examples fit in two categories: fisheries finance and marine eco-tourism, and they rely on combinations of debt and equity finance. The impetus or motivation for these projects is consistently to use money and business as a power for positive change, to deliver sustained and resilient human-reef systems that are not reliant on the grants treadmill.

Dutton: Below are three examples of how impact investing approaches are being developed in response to different types of challenges – each employs a different type of investing innovation to generate impact. They are indicative of the growing appetite for financiers to engage in new ways with ocean stewards, and of the increasing recognition by ocean stewards of the need to engage financiers in new and creative ways:

  • Vibrant Oceans Initiative: Investing for Sustainable Global FisheriesThe Vibrant Oceans Initiative’s goals are to restore fish stocks, reduce bycatch, and protect and restore ocean habitat, improve the lives and livelihoods of fisher communities, and contribute to food security. Individual or collective investors can fund a range of projects – from independent, small-scale ‘artisanal’ fishers in Chile to multimillion-dollar infrastructure investments supporting regional tuna fisheries in the Philippines.
  • Fish 2.0: Bringing Investors and Entrepreneurs Together for Sustainable SeafoodFish 2.0 is an biennial competition that connects seafood entrepreneurs, business and conservation leaders, and investors to each other. Through a competitive process, fisheries business owners learn how to improve their business models and approach investors, while investors gain early access to new opportunities and learn how to include sustainable seafood in their portfolios.

MEAM: Can you tell us more about the conditions (market, social, etc.) that are needed for impact investing projects dealing with ocean environments and ocean users to work?

Walsh: Marine impact investments require the same conditions as any effective marine conservation initiative – robust science, strong governance, engaged stakeholders, etc. However, they also require an extra level of business and financial planning. We have a systemic issue where marine scientists and conservation and management practitioners are not normally educated in business and finance and finance professionals are not normally educated in marine resource issues. This leads to a large gap in understanding. Intermediaries – I like to think of these as matchmakers – are almost always essential for marine impact investments to work. Intermediaries help investors source deals, assess risks and returns, assess impacts, and evaluate projects and generally provide technical assistance to both sides.

In terms of market conditions, there are examples of impact investments in both the developed and developing world. It is a misconception that impact investing is only for developed countries. There are certainly great examples of fisheries finance from the USA and Europe, but there are also examples of opportunities in developing economies where holes left by ineffective governments can be filled by private sector impact investments.

Capital for marine impact investments appears to be available, and the limitation is the paucity of investor-ready projects. To me this is analogous to the food scarcity dilemma; the world produces enough food to feed the entire population, but nearly one billion people are underfed due to distribution and waste issues. We have growing evidence of the availability of investment capital – including a recent survey of 21 impact investors (publication forthcoming) – but we need to focus on developing and scaling projects to accept the capital.

Dutton: The two key preconditions for a successful impact investment are (a) financial return and (b) measurable social and/or environmental outcomes. Both are equally important to impact investors who, unlike conventional financiers, give equal weight to both requirements.

Generating a financial return (ranging from concessional – accepted by the investor to be below-market - to competitive rates) is typically the major challenge for many proponents of impact investment projects. This is often due to the inherent challenges in determining the market value of an ocean good or service. It is also difficult to demonstrate positive impacts of many ocean management strategies because there are often inadequate baseline data so potential investors are unable to determine impact with the required level of precision.

As the examples above indicate, impact investors are developing a range of new approaches to determining the viability of impact investment methods for ocean conservation. They are also developing a new suite of strategies to impact markets. At the recent IUCN World Conservation Congress, a new coalition was launched to increase private investment in conservation. Impact investing will be a prominent component of that coalition’s work.

It should be kept in mind that the power of impact investing can be enhanced through ‘blended’ financing approaches, e.g., combining grants, loans, and other kinds of financing. Ultimately investors and other stakeholders need to collectively decide what financial instruments will work best in response to the specific issues they are seeking to address.

MEAM: What advice would you give to a marine conservation or management professional interested in exploring using impact investment for her/his own work?

Walsh: For a non-profit, my advice would be to partner with an intermediary – someone who can bridge the divide between marine conservation and finance. Together you will need to assess if an investible business model can be developed for your context.

A common pitfall that I see is that non-profit organizations try to retrofit new types of money into old fundraising pathways. Impact investments need to be designed with the intent to return some or all of the money back to the investor and therefore need to be underpinned by a solid business model.

Sometimes, non-profits are reticent to pursue activities that generate money because they seem inappropriate. Culture shifts and uncomfortable conversations with non-profit boards are often part of the process.

Also, access to funding to make the transition from a grants-funded organization to an entity that can accept impact investments (non-profit, social enterprise, or other model) is often very hard to come by. When organizations get critically low on funds, they often think that private investment can be a quick fix to save them. This is not the case. It can take months to years of full-time capacity to develop, test, and capitalize a new marine impact investment. Organizations will need to be very creative and persistent to devote the time and capacity it takes to develop a business model.

For an individual, my advice is to consider a social entrepreneurship fellowship. There are numerous programs to support individuals in developing impact investment business plans. The combination of your marine conservation knowledge and some business guidance could be powerful.

Dutton: Impact investing can be daunting for conservation professionals who have little experience in conservation finance or fundraising. The good news is that although it is a relatively new field, there is a rapidly growing network of conservation professionals with impact investing experience and the current market is substantial and expanding significantly.

For a basic but thorough introduction to the field, I recommend the seminal 2014 book by Judith Rodin and Margot Brandenburg, The Power of Impact Investing, which provides a great overview of the core concepts, genesis, and initial development of impact investing. That work connects directly to the burgeoning online resources related to impact investing, particularly those developed by the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN). The GIIN website has a well-organized knowledge center that provides a menu of reference materials that meet the needs of novice to expert impact investors.

Most conservation professionals will also benefit from connecting with impact investing professionals directly. Many mid-size to large conservation organizations (e.g., RARE, African Wildlife Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, WWF) now employ impact investing staff. There is also an increasingly diverse array of impact investing expertise associated with financial institutions (e.g., JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, etc.), with government (e.g., the UK Social Impact Investing Taskforce), and with independent organizations (e.g., Impact Investing Australia).

Linking your specific interests in marine conservation with some current impact investing initiatives may seem to be a stretch. But like all new fields of social endeavor, impact investing offers enormous opportunities to explore ideas, to learn, and improve the practice. We encourage you to make your contribution to the field – you might be surprised by the impact you can have!

Editor’s note: The editorial staff would like to thank Ian Dutton of Nautilus Impact Investing for his help in preparing the introduction to this article.

By Tundi Agardy, Contributing Editor, MEAM. Email: tundiagardy [at] earthlink.net

Blue growth – the strategy to promote economic and employment growth from the oceans, seas and coasts – is alluring. But are we really ready for where that growth could take us?

One direction we could be headed is a future where ocean values are recognized and preserved for the widest array of beneficiaries possible – both human and non-human. But blue growth’s emphasis on economic values may instead be spurring a gold rush mentality that threatens the very ecosystems that provide the goods and services on which it depends.

Is blue growth sustainable?

There are two dimensions to this question, and they are related. First is the issue of equity. Policies and plans that boast the ‘unlocking of the blue growth potential’ not only aim to maximize ocean use, they may in fact favor new uses over old. Powerful commercial interests may hold sway over decisions about marine resource allocation and access to ocean space. The traditional user, the small-scale enterprise, and the non-consumptive values – especially those that don't generate revenue – seem very vulnerable in this blue gold rush. This should lead us to question whether it is socially sustainable for countries to develop policies that favor powerful commercial interests over those of their citizens more broadly.

Second is the issue of whether oceans will be able to withstand the increased pressures that expanded and intensified uses will bring. This is especially true in light of the shifting ecosystem and eco-social dynamics that global climate change will be expected to bring. Decisions made about resource allocation, based on what is available to use today, are unlikely to lead to sustainable strategies for use in the future. And when conservation is just one of many specific interests at the bargaining table rather than the foundation for sustainable use, the blue economy risks becoming a boom then bust economy. A recent study by Tessa Mazor and colleagues (2014) found that marine planning that multiplies the number of uses in a particular place (in this case a part of the Mediterranean Sea) are not able to meet conservation outcomes as easily and have greater opportunity cost. And with species, habitats, and ecosystems threatened, both economic and social sustainability will be unattainable.

Return to the plantation era?

At the Caribbean Coastal Conference held in Barbados last month, Dr. Leonard Nurse of the University of the West Indies rattled the assembled government, donor, and civil society participants when he expressed his fear that boosting the blue economy could in fact lead to a return to the plantation era – with profits reaped by large multinational corporations and benefits flowing out of small island states faster than the trade winds.

Change from the status quo is certainly needed as ocean ecosystems steadily deteriorate. But I’d caution again that we need to be very careful that blue growth leads us to where we want to go – and not to points of no return with extinctions of species, extinctions of ways of life, and societies with even greater inequities than exist today.

Editor's note: The goal of The EBM Toolbox is to promote awareness of tools for facilitating EBM and MSP processes. It is brought to you by the EBM Tools Network, a voluntary alliance of tool users, developers, and training providers.

Need to learn how your stakeholders are using the marine environment? Want to take advantage of the eyes (and brains) of those concerned citizens out there?

EBM Tools Network members recently shared a wide variety of tools they use, or have seen used, to crowdsource data or do wiki-style mapping (collaborative mapping and editing by users). We wanted to share a few tools and projects being used for marine conservation and management that practitioners could use or emulate for their own projects. Many thanks to all of the Network members who shared their knowledge and resources!

  • The ocean planning tool SeaSketch has survey functionality that can be used to collect spatial and non-spatial data from targeted groups or broader crowdsourcing to help build fundamental data layers for marine spatial planning efforts.
  • Science4Surfing collects information from surfers to help predict how sea level rise will affect the future of surfing conditions at different surf-spots around the world.
  • With iCoast – Did the Coast Change?, citizen scientists can help scientists at the US Geological Survey understand how coastlines are changing from extreme storms by annotating aerial photographs with keyword tags to identify changes to the coast after extreme storms.
  • The Whale Alert app helps mariners navigate conservation areas and conduct required reporting when entering whale reporting areas. In addition, it enables mariners and members of the public to contribute whale sightings to a central database used by whale biologists and resource managers to reduce lethal ship strikes of whales.

If you are interested in the full compilation of tools that the Network has developed, please send an email to the EBM Tools Network Coordinator at ebmtools [at] natureserve.org.

If you have a question about tools and resources for coastal and marine conservation and management that you would like to ask the EBM Tools Network, join their free discussion list at https://list.openchannels.org/mailman/listinfo/ebmtools_discuss and post your question to ebmtools_discuss [at] list.openchannels.org.

European MSP knowledge-sharing platform launched

With the adoption of the EU Directive on Maritime Spatial Planning (2014/89/EU), all coastal EU Member States are required to prepare cross-sectoral maritime spatial plans by 2021. A new service, the European MSP Platform funded by the EU Directorate General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG MARE), just launched to help EU Member States share relevant MSP knowledge and experiences to promote implementation efforts. The platform currently offers information on the status of MSP processes in each coastal EU Member State, an overview of previous and ongoing MSP projects and their outputs, EU-wide and national funding opportunities, MSP training programs and workshops, and a Question & Answer service on issues related to MSP. Visit the platform.

Report provides comprehensive review of effects of ocean warming

A report “Explaining ocean warming: Causes, scale, effects and consequences” issued by IUCN reviews the effects of ocean warming on species and ecosystems and the ecosystem services oceans provide. The report chronicles already detectable effects of ocean warming – including movement of entire groups of species such as plankton, jellyfish, turtles, and seabirds as much as 10 degrees of latitude towards the poles; loss of breeding grounds for turtles and seabirds; and diminished breeding success of marine mammals. It also describes expected effects (even under low future carbon emissions scenarios), such as movement of fish species to cooler waters and reduced fisheries catches in tropical regions. The report also reviews evidence of other ocean warming impacts such as increased disease in plant and animal populations and increased spread of pathogens harmful to humans such as cholera and ciguatera.

"Most of the heat from human-induced warming since the 1970s -- a staggering 93% -- has been absorbed by the ocean, which acts as a buffer against climate change, but this comes at a price. We were astounded by the scale and extent of ocean warming effects on entire ecosystems made clear by this report," says Dan Laffoley, Marine Vice Chair of the World Commission on Protected Areas at IUCN, and one of the lead authors of the report. Recommendations from the report include recognizing the severity of ocean warming impacts; better evaluating their social and economic risks; and addressing research gaps that need to be resolved to tackle the impacts of ocean warming with greater confidence in the future. Read the report.

Researchers find realities of MSP implementation contrast with conceptual ideals

A special section of the journal Marine Policy on the topic of how MSP is implemented in reality finds that integrated-use MSP implementation in Europe is often based on political expedience and a desire to achieve blue growth priorities rather than environmental priorities. In addition, participative platforms are disconnected from executive decision making by design ensuring that top-down approaches dominate. The special section consists of eight papers focused on case studies around Europe and a discussion paper. The discussion paper can be accessed at no cost here. A blog describing the sections findings and linking to the case study papers is available here.

Report finds current UN protections for deep sea ecosystems inadequate

A new report “How much longer will it take?” by the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition finds that implementation of UN General Assembly resolutions to manage deep-sea fisheries sustainably and protect the deep-sea environment falls short and leaves vast areas of the ocean unprotected from destruction by deep-sea bottom trawling. The report is intended to inform the UN General Assembly’s review of the management of deep-sea bottom fisheries in areas beyond national jurisdiction this year. It makes a number of recommendations including: 1) conducting comprehensive impact assessments in all areas where bottom fisheries are permitted or authorized to occur in areas beyond national jurisdiction; 2) closing all areas to bottom fishing where vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) are known or are likely to occur, unless a science-based determination is made that significant adverse impacts will not, or are not likely to, occur; 3) conducting cumulative impact assessments to determine the extent to which existing VMEs have been impacted over time by bottom fishing and/or are under threat from other stressors such as ocean acidification. Read the report.

New web platform with coastal-marine “solution” case studies

Panorama, a global partnership facilitated by GIZ and IUCN, has launched a new web platform that features over 240 “solution” case studies related to the management of coastal-marine environments and protected areas. The coastal-marine portfolio, hosted by Blue Solutions, offers a tool for practitioners to share and learn from successful approaches to a variety of conservation and development situations. Visit the Panorama platform.

By Tundi Agardy, Contributing Editor, MEAM. Email: tundiagardy [at] earthlink.net

Sometimes it takes a look from a different direction to develop a fuller view of something you thought you knew well. Peter Neill’s new book, The Once and Future Ocean – Notes Toward a Hydraulic Society, has the potential to create a mental shift in its readers. Part philosophical musings on the relationship between humans and the ocean and the way ‘the sea connects all things’ and part rational prescription for putting water use and ocean health front and center in policies and management, Neill’s voice is a fresh new perspective on a set of problems that have been stewing for quite some time. For seasoned ocean professionals such as I, it is a jarring read – a wake up call that real change will only come from a new way of thinking about the water world.

It cannot be said that Peter Neill is an outsider or an entirely new voice. His voice is actually quite familiar thanks to his broadcasts on World Ocean Radio –some 400 editions reaching around the whole globe. But Neill’s journey to the world of ocean awareness and marine policy is not the traditional trajectory – he cut his ocean teeth in the curatorial world, leading the South Street Seaport Museum in New York City. Frustrated with how messages were being delivered to the masses, and by what messages were left unheard, Neill left to establish the World Ocean Observatory (W2O), an organization advocating for the health and sustainability of the ocean through a broad array of communication channels.

Neill’s particular journey means that he looks upon ocean issues with the eyes of someone who is neither an academic nor a conservationist nor a marine manager – but who encompasses all these perspectives and more. Much of the book is dedicated to important topics that are rarely if ever raised: the importance of empathy, the need to rethink what oceans mean to humanity, the suggestion that understanding the water cycle provides the foundation for a more holistic approach to addressing ocean issues. Neill questions the ideas and dogma behind the loudest voices in marine conservation and challenges us to think about our preconceived notions and put them aside. His book advocates for freeing our minds - creating the space for the truly creative ideas and disruptive solutions that can lead to the kind of change our ocean planet so urgently needs.