When Rare first approached Mr. Jenks, the outfit had a handful of staff and a budget of less than $1 million. Now the Arlington, VA-based group has become a $25 million operation, with 170 employees and offices in Brazil, China, Colombia, Indonesia, Micronesia, Mozambique and the Philippines. Rare has executed hundreds of campaigns in more than 55 countries to protect wildlife, preserve waterways, expand eco-tourism and push for green regulation. Most of its work involves getting farmers and fishermen in environmentally rich, economically poor areas to see the value in behaving sustainably.
Rares mission was land-based until around five years ago, when they turned their attention to fisheries. We have fished out a lot of the ocean, says Mr. Jenks. If you measured fisheries like a tank of gas, it would be fair to say were at a quarter tank.
Most people blame big commercial fleets, but Mr. Jenks says that small-scale fishers, many of them in motorless boats pose at least as great a threat. When there are tens of millions of them along the coastline, where most of the worlds marine biodiversity is, they can and have done a lot of damage. The fact that these small-scale fishermen provide food for about a billion of the worlds poorest people makes their fateand the fate of their stocksall he more urgent.
Changing the behavior of millions of poor coastal fishermen isnt easy. But Rares Fish Forever program, which the non-profit has begun rolling out in Brazil, Indonesia, Mozambique and the Philippines, has already found some success.
In the Philippines, for example, granting fishermen exclusive access to coastal zones has made it possible to create local sanctuaries where fish can spawn and mature. Fishermen with explicit rights are more likely to enjoy the benefits of following the rules and not over-fishing. If they play their cards right, the ocean becomes a natural annuity, says Mr. Jenks. Rares analysis shows the fish stocks in pilot zones rising 47% in two years.
Rare is now using this approach in 90 of the countrys 800 coastal municipalities. It is also in talks with the Philippine government and several international development banks to figure out how to scale this solution nationally and perhaps globally.
In the world of conservation, good news is rare. Being an environmentalist means the victories are few and far between, Mr. Jenks says. That is why he pushes Rares staff to concentrate on whats workingwhat he calls a mind-set of solutionology.
He is quick to rattle off Rares achievements, which include protecting the once critically endangered St. Lucian parrot in the Caribbean and convincing farmers in China to grow cotton organically. Its not just hope driving us, Mr. Jenks says. We have ample evidence that this approach is working. Learn more at