This story is part of a special series on Ocean Innovations.
Future of Fish is a nonprofit that is helping entrepreneurs who hope to reinvent the seafood industry by attacking problems throughout the long supply chains used by today's industrialized fisheries.
"We hope to change incentives for behavior in the industry so it's no longer profitable to overfish and to fish non-sustainably," founder Cheryl Dahle explained. "And we're looking to reward sustainable behavior with a better price."
The effort begins with making information more available, properly identifying fish, and tracking it all the way from sea to plate. Today's consumers have little idea where, when, or how most of their fish was caught. In fact, genetic studies show they often don't even know what kind of fish they are really buying.
"Estimates vary but some 30 to 70 percent of the fish sold in the United States is mislabeled," Dahle said. "If fish is mislabeled you don't have a real choice to eat the right kind of fish. Until the marketplace becomes transparent you can't value fish for where it came from or how it was caught—and those are two main pillars of sustainability."
At the same time, many popular fish species like orange roughy and bluefin tuna have collapsed under fishing pressure. Some studies suggest that today's populations of large ocean fish are at just 10 percent of their preindustrial levels. Some scientists warn that all fisheries could be in collapse by 2050.
However, many fish populations have shown an ability to rebound if they are managed. Tough regulations often encounter pushback, but Future of Fish hopes to drive adoption by making them better for business. "Our approach is not a substitute for policy changes," Dahle said. "But we're trying to re-engineer the incentives through the ways fish are traded every day."