Walton Family Foundation pledges millions to marine conservation

The Walton Family Foundation announced a USD 250 million (EUR 224 million) commitment to marine conservation at the Our Oceans conference on 16 September. 

Combined with pledges from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and others, more than USD 1 billion (EUR 895 million) will go to future marine conservation and research, according to a Walton Family Foundation press release.

The Walton Family Foundation, which was created by Walmart founders Sam and Helen Walton, has long supported marine conservation. According to the release, the foundation’s newest funding will go towards projects in Indonesia, the United States, Mexico, Chile and Peru, utilizing a coordinated approach with grantees and partners to implement the following six strategies:

1. develop the scientific information and tools needed to enable better fisheries management;
2. empower local fishermen and communities through catch shares that provide secure tenure rights;
3. safeguard critical fish habitats with marine-protected areas and other spatial management tools;
4. strengthen the capacity of fishermen, governments and civil society to rebuild fisheries;
5. promote fisheries policies and programs that create positive incentives to encourage responsible fishing; and
6. harness the market for sustainable seafood to build support for healthy fisheries practices.

“Fishing can become the sustainable success story of the 21st century. If properly managed, fisheries could provide increased income and stability for coastal communities and industry, as well as improved ocean health,” the foundation said in a press release. “There is momentum for this type of coordinated approach that expands the network of players involved in fisheries issues, coordinates around shared goals, and shares the tools and approaches that work. The opportunity we see is in creating new partnerships among conservation organizations, businesses and communities to restore the health of oceans through sustainable fisheries.”

Rob Walton, board member and chair of the environment committee at the Walton Family Foundation, said at the announcement the foundation saw an especially promising opportunity in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Billions of dollars are moving into the Gulf of Mexico from the 2010 oil spill settlement. All told, there will be almost $15 billion over the next 15 years available for restoration,” he said. “This region is vital to the nation’s economy. It is home to a USD 34 billion (EUR 30.4 billion) tourism industry, and 40 percent of all seafood harvested in the lower 48 states comes from the Gulf. Our aim in the Gulf is to ensure that the available restoration funds are invested wisely, so that restoration activities are undertaken at the appropriate scale to address the historic loss of wetlands, oyster reefs and other coastal systems that the region needs to stay strong and resilient.”

Conservation and other environmental efforts are especially meaningful over the next five to 10 years due to the potentially rapid environmental changes being wrought by climate change, Walton said.

“The decisions we make over the next five to 10 years – for the climate, the ocean and coasts, the air we breathe and the water we drink – will determine what kind of world we leave to our children and grandchildren,” he said. “We know all about the problems, and what we need to do to solve them. Our challenge and opportunity are to come together – as individuals, as organizations, as governments – and take the actions necessary to leave a healthy environment for the future.”


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