Pet-food giant Mars and agri-food heavyweight Cargill are backing a new scheme set up by the WWF, aimed at making fisheries more sustainable.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Finance Earth (FE) project is targeting $100m in fisheries improvement by 2030.

Walmart and club store chain Costco are also backing the initiative.

Estimates suggest more than a third of global fish stocks are overexploited and a further 60% are fished at their maximum limit.

The goal of the scheme announced today (26 April) is to reverse the decline and to scale global fisheries improvements toward “nature-positive outcomes for healthier marine ecosystems, thriving fishing communities, and a sustainable blue economy”.

Finance Earth, an investment advisor and fund manager specialising in social and environmental financing models, will establish and manage the Fisheries Improvement Fund (FIF).

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Johan Bergenas, senior vice president of oceans at WWF US, said: “Through this blue finance mechanism, sustainable financing will be ensured for projects that are critical to scaling fishery reform over the coming decade for people and nature, through an efficient, equitable, and cost-effective model.

“Our vision is that this fund, under the management of Finance Earth, revolutionises fisheries finance, driving game-changing environmental and social impact.”

WWF said that, together with FE, it has worked with industry to “conceptualise and design a model that is impactful, scalable across fisheries and supported by companies working to transition fisheries in their supply chains to more sustainable resources”.

Cargill, a major supplier of fish feed, is among the businesses which have agreed to participate in a pilot project to showcase the new model.

Mars, a significant buyer of fish produce for its pet-food brands, has committed $1m in funding for fishery improvement projects over five years

Paul Gardner, chief procurement officer for pet nutrition, at the company, said: “Mars and WWF have a long-standing partnership of more than a decade focused on driving improvements in seafood supply chains. Through this innovative blue finance mechanism, Mars is supporting the development of new models that can provide a consistent source of funding for global fisheries improvements, with a clear aim to positively impact our oceans.

“We believe this effort is critical to helping protect the long-term viability of our planet’s natural resources and the many people dependent on healthy fisheries for their livelihoods.”

Helene Ziv-Douki, president of aqua nutrition business at Cargill, said: “We see a clear and compelling business case for companies to invest in the long-term viability of their marine ingredients used for aquaculture products, especially as aquaculture production continues to grow exponentially. The industry needs to work to support sourcing from more sustainable fisheries through active engagement. Improvement in fisheries will reduce supply chain volatility and mitigate supply chain risk while enhancing business value across the sector.”

Participating companies will commit to a volume-based fee that is intended to enable the FIF to pay back upfront costs for the fishery improvement projects as well as create a long-term revenue stream.

Finance Earth is seeking proposals from fisheries worldwide that may be interested in support. The fund can support both industrial and small-scale fisheries.