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Schmidt Marine Fisheries Initiative 2022 Funding Portal


Introduction

Anyone working on the ocean knows the essential role of healthy fisheries. While there are success stories in fisheries management, there are also troubling declines in fish stocks and allowable catch. Successes can and should be celebrated, but declines have profound impacts on ocean health, food security, and the livelihoods of countless communities around the globe. 

Fisheries problems are often complex, and we recognize that many of the greatest threats to the world’s fisheries are challenges of politics, human behavior, and information deficits. However, we also believe many of these challenges can be addressed through improved technologies. The goal of this initiative is to aid the development of innovative tools that support fisheries sustainability by providing up to $3.5 million in new, annual funding. If you are working on relevant solutions, or have creative ideas for solving fisheries sustainability issues with data or technology, we’d like to hear from you. Please read on for information about the kinds of work we do and do not fund, and if you don’t find the information you’re looking for here, please visit our frequently asked questions page

 

Background 

Fishing, fisheries science, and fisheries conservation are rife with conflict, controversy, and complications. But significant steps towards more widespread fisheries sustainability are possible and critical. Some of those steps can be achieved, or at least rendered achievable, with the availability of new and improved tools. These range from new types of gear or gear improvements, to new methods of gathering fisheries-related data, to the application of existing tools in new ways. 

We are at a truly critical juncture. In many areas, ocean health is declining rapidly.  However in some areas, ocean health and fisheries stocks are improving.   These case studies suggest that our growing technological capabilities make it possible to envision—to a greater extent than ever before—new tools and techniques available at low cost around the world can bring about substantial improvements. 

Emerging technologies need not be divisive or subject to politics. Technological innovation in its best form brings stakeholders together, and can provide an opportunity for fishermen and communities to protect ocean resources and their way of life.
 

The Initiative

In recent years there has been encouraging growth in the number of groups interested in funding ocean technology, many on the investment side. But technology developers need early-stage support in order to make it to the investable later stages and to make products that are affordable to their target markets. This new initiative is aimed at providing that support to multiple groups. The massive scope of the work needed to improve the state of the world’s fisheries suggests that numerous new ideas and companies will need to develop and expand in the coming years. This is where Schmidt Marine and our funding partners hope to contribute. This year Schmidt Marine will be committing $2 million in new funding for fisheries technologies, and two anonymous funders will provide an additional $1.5 million. 

Though we fund groups at a variety of stages, we prioritize support to those in the earliest stages of development, when funding is most difficult to obtain. Once we begin funding a group, it is our intention to continue funding them until they are able to achieve financial stability, either through more traditional investment or contracts and sales.  This typically means 5 to 7 years of recurring funding for appropriate projects achieving annual milestones. We have no set bounds on our grant sizes, but our grants are typically in the $100,000 to $400,000 range per year.  Submitted ideas should briefly outline how they plan to achieve financial stability.

 

What We Are Looking For

Though we have no express regional focus, our greatest interest is technologies that will enable improvements in fisheries around the world, especially those regions where management and monitoring resources are most limited. If you are working on a technology that promises significant improvements in sustainability for fish populations in well-regulated regions such as the U.S. or Europe, we are nonetheless happy to consider funding. But, in all cases, we can only fund strategies that are plausible in light of the political realities of such regions, coming from teams with adequate knowledge of the complex governing systems at play and an understanding of fleet dynamics. 

Significant improvements to fisheries sustainability are only possible if plans to achieve improvements are grounded in the realities of fishing, and fisheries science and management. Especially in the case of technologies to be employed directly by fishermen such as gear improvements, technologies should offer benefits to fishermen that make adoption feasible. For instance, if a technology substantially reduced bycatch but also target catches, without some beneficial offset such as improved fuel efficiency or safety, widespread use is unlikely to be adopted and is unlikely to promote sustainability. At times, fisheries technologies have been developed without adequate input from fishermen. For this reason, in our proposal process we will ask about a group’s experience getting input from active fishermen when applicable, though please note that we are happy to do what we can to help facilitate such collaboration if needed. 

In most cases we avoid funding the development of technologies that can only succeed if there is some future government mandate or change to current regulations. Similarly, we want to avoid funding technologies that don’t have a clear path to application within existing management structures of target regions. For instance, a spectacular new method for accurately assessing fishery population sizes might be very difficult to implement in the rigid U.S. structure. But in some countries where fisheries management schemes are new or still emerging, such a technology might be welcomed and widely applied. Along these lines, technologies that limit operations or would be undesirable in practice to fishermen should be avoided. 

 

More Specifics

We are most interested in the prototyping or pilot-testing of ideas and technologies in their early stages. However, we are happy to discuss projects at later stages, provided there is a case to be made that the level of funding available could enable significant advances. We encourage applications from individuals and groups who do not typically work on ocean issues, such as companies with technologies for other applications that offer potential in fisheries. We are open to supporting work at universities, non-profit organizations, or for-profit companies, including commercial fishing companies. 

While we will consider ideas from other areas, we are especially interested in:

  1. New or improved methods and tools for fisheries data collection, especially those enabling fisheries stock assessments. Of particular interest are technologies that offer the potential for low-cost, reliable, and efficient deployment even in remote areas. 

  2. Creative methods and new collaborations to substantially expand capabilities for analyzing fisheries data sets to increase fisheries sustainability through reduction of overfishing, prevention of illegal fishing, or creation of premium sustainable markets. 

  3. Fishing gear or gear modifications that reduce bycatch, derelict gear, and/or habitat destruction, or that increase fishermen safety or the survival rates of discarded catch. Such technologies should offer benefits to fishermen or other characteristics that open plausible paths for adoption.

  4. Tools that enable improved fishing ground and protected area monitoring in order to prevent situations where good players are penalized and illegal players profit.

We are not currently funding in the areas of aquaculture or cell-cultured meats. However, please note that Schmidt Marine supports work in multiple areas related to aquaculture. If you are, for instance, working on technologies that reduce nutrient pollution from aquaculture facilities, please follow our normal submittal process at schmidtmarine.org. 

Please note that providing only very basic information in this list is intentional. Our aim is not to outline specific projects for groups to take on. Our goal is to connect with groups that are already working in these areas, or are working on technologies that might be repurposed as solutions to fisheries problems. The ideas that will rank highest will be market-based solutions that are impressively creative but also economically viable, reflecting a clear understanding of the barriers to, and opportunities for, wide voluntary adoption.

If you are interested in proposing a project under this initiative, we ask that you fill out our initial short application form. This includes only basic information, and 500 words or less explaining your idea/technology. Schmidt Marine will review these submissions, and teams with ideas that appear to be a good potential fit for the initiative will be asked to submit a full proposal. These initial proposals will be due by May 20, 2022. Recipients of the funding will be announced in November 2022.

Full proposals will be reviewed by members of our advisory panel, as well as additional outside experts. Funded projects will be selected from those ranked highest. Applications are welcome from any country. We are very comfortable with high-risk ideas as long as the potential benefits are proportional to that risk, and we encourage collaborations.
 

Please visit our FAQ on the initiative for additional specifics and feel free to contact us if you have questions at fisheries@schmidtmarine.org.

To begin the proposal process we ask that you create an account with your basic information and a very short initial description of your project.

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