Picture a fishing community rich with coastal mangrove forests and highly productive waters that has sustained fishing for generations. Aware of the need to maintain healthy fish stocks, the community has adopted better fishing practices like using more selective fishing gear, implementing closure periods, and establishing no-take areas near reefs and in mangrove forests, all of which have helped to sustain their livelihoods and a thriving ecosystem.

But demand for seafood continues to grow. The surrounding community puts increased pressure on the same fish stock, begins developing irresponsible aquaculture operations in mangrove forests, and occurrences of inequitable labor practices have increased. Biodiversity is in decline, climate change is shifting fish stocks out of reach, and the need for improved social equity in the seafood sector is coming to light. These pressures threaten the livelihood, opportunity, and well-being of local communities and seafood companies, and the national government is under scrutiny for a lack of action to address issues.

This scenario is not isolated to a single place. Around the world, communities, seafood companies, and governments are being asked to conserve and improve biodiversity, manage fishery and aquaculture production sustainably, ensure equitable benefits to local communities and Indigenous peoples, and maintain seafood-dependent livelihoods. Steps are being taken by each group to individually address these challenges, but it is not enough. Isolated action by one fishery or farm, by one company, or by governance reform alone will not create the transformational change needed to improve biodiversity and ensure equitable, climate resilient, sustainable seafood production at scale.

Acknowledging the challenges of addressing these wide-ranging issues and the vital need for both improved collaboration between local governments and the private sector and a transition to nature-positive business operations among seafood stakeholders, WWF and partners at Conservation International, with support from the Walmart Foundation, have developed a new approach and put together guidance documents to bring the concept of Jurisdictional Initiatives to the seafood sector.

Creating Positive Change with Jurisdictional Initiatives

Jurisdictional Initiatives, or “JIs”, began as a land-based framework to address complex issues with deforestation and agriculture supply chains and can be widely applied to the complex, systemic issues in fisheries and aquaculture. While not a fix for every problem within the seafood sector, WWF and partners believe that the application of Jurisdictional Initiatives to fisheries and aquaculture in our priority seascape regions is the needed evolution of existing fishery and aquaculture improvement tools to mitigate problems larger than an individual fishery, reconcile disconnects between stakeholders, and move towards long-term benefit for both people and nature.

“To achieve lasting, net positive impacts on our oceans for the people that depend on them, we need to consider more systemic and holistic improvements across the critical seascapes we seek to protect. We’ve worked closely with partners to develop Jurisdictional Initiatives into a set of innovative approaches to achieve results that are grounded in science yet viable for seafood industry.”

Michael Griff, Director of Seafood Markets, WWF US

The implementation of a Jurisdictional Initiative unites all involved parties under an umbrella of action so that governments, supply chain actors, and Indigenous peoples and local communities are working towards agreed upon improvement targets within their own areas of expertise and priorities. Existing improvement methods, like fishery improvement projects, credible seafood certification schemes, marine protected areas, and seafood traceability are among the tools available under the umbrella.

WWF’s and Conservation International’s guidelines therefore include tailored recommendations for stakeholders to establish a robust, successful seafood JI, including step-by-step guidance for:

  • Project developers to effectively scope, co-design and implement JIs in their production geography;
  • Government authorities to engage in co-designing and implementing JIs; and
  • Seafood importers, brands and end buyers to support JIs in their own supply chains through commitments to producers who are engaged in relevant JIs.

Moving forward, WWF, with support from the Walmart Foundation, aim to pilot Jurisdictional Initiatives in WWF’s Eastern Pacific Seascape region, including in Ecuador and Chile. More information on the process of these pilot projects will be shared as partners are brought together to decide how to tackle the issues facing ecosystems and seafood supply chains. In addition, Conservation International is launching jurisdictional initiatives to strengthen the performance of the tuna longline fisheries in Fiji and New Caledonia.

“The Walmart Foundation recognizes the urgent need to ensure sustainable wild-caught and farmed seafood for the health of our oceans and the well-being of people. Jurisdictional Initiatives and the guidelines developed by WWF and Conservation International offer a clear path forward not only for sustaining seafood production, but also for ensuring that oceans and people thrive.”

Julie Gehrki, VP and COO, Walmart Foundation

We want communities around the world to be able to continue their generational legacy of earning their livelihoods from the ocean, for seafood companies to sustain production to feed a growing global population, and for marine wildlife to recover. Jurisdictional Initiatives offer a new and improved way to make those changes happen at a pace that helps WWF achieve our 2030 coastal and marine goals for the planet, people, prosperity, and peace.

Guidance for Importers, Brands, and End Buyers to Engage in Jurisdictional Initiatives for the Seafood Sector