The Power of Partnership: Old Dart Foundation + Future of Fish

Healthy ocean ecosystems are the foundation of healthy coastal communities and functioning global food systems. But achieving sustainable fisheries does not begin with environmental actions. It begins with building a foundation for empowered small-scale fisheries that have resilient livelihoods and have the capacity to effectively manage their business and the ocean resources they depend upon.

A recent Partnership Agreement between Future of Fish and Old Dart Foundation seeks to drive large-scale systems change to benefit coastal communities and ocean ecosystems. Together, we hope to combine our strengths in community engagement and fisheries, supporting social and economic development that will enable fishing communities in Northern Peru to thrive as stewards of environmental sustainability.

We asked Chrissy Cattle and Sheila Avila from Old Dart Foundation and Laura Fernández Cascán and Oscar Vilela Seminario from Future of Fish to share some thoughts on the new partnership, the new project, the potential impacts of combining efforts, and the power of collaboration.

We are so pleased this partnership is now in place between our two organizations. Can you tell us why you chose to partner with each other?

Old Dart Foundation: The Foundation has been funding programs in Peru for almost a decade, and in that time our strategic approach to funding has evolved greatly, from funding at the grassroots level, to more recently, partnering with organizations who are working to challenge the status quo and bring about systemic change. Future of Fish’s approach reflects where we are as an organization – their work is holistic, participatory, community-driven, and rights-based, building equitable fishing communities, able to advocate for their rights to basic health and education; where women are valued and empowered and where families have secure livelihoods because they are able to manage effectively their trade and the marine resources on which they depend. FoF also delivers a powerful approach that brings together communities, local governments, industry, and other NGO actors to reimagine the artisanal fishing community as a center for equitable and equal collective action, that values traditional fishing culture, and promotes sustainable economic development at the national level.

“The anticipated results are strong fishing communities, where traditional fishing culture is valued, and where social and economic resilience thrives.”

Future of Fish:  Old Dart Foundation is a different type of funding partner than we have traditionally worked with, and one that is needed to support innovation and transformation of coastal communities. First of all, they are truly committed to socio-economic development and doing it by seeking sustainability built on local leadership and agency, with a focus on equity and inclusion. Second, they support this with catalytic funding that is so much needed for innovative approaches and to boost systems change, a type of capital that is hard to find. Last, but not least, they are extremely professional, and understand the need for flexibility of an intervention like this. These types of interventions require an in-depth analysis in the field before starting and building on human-centered approaches while applying science-based methodologies and implementing a robust monitoring and evaluation system.

Can you tell us more about this initial project we are working on together?

Old Dart Foundation: Artisanal fishing is an important economic engine for coastal communities in Peru, with ~ 44,000  people dedicated to maritime artisanal fishing across the country. This project will take place across La Islilla and La Tortuga, two fishing communities in the Paita province in the Piura region —  a region that represents more than a third of the country’s artisanal fishermen and produces 50% of the Mahi-mahi catch for human consumption. These fishing communities play an integral role in Peru’s economy, providing a vital food source across the nation, and contributing greatly to Peru’s domestic and export economy. However, the majority of these fishermen are informal workers — meaning they lack legal status and thus formal rights and protections. This is exacerbated by a lack of organized bodies to stand up for fisher rights given their informality. Furthermore, these coastal communities are severely underserved in terms of access to education and health services, with poor transport and housing infrastructure.

ODF has partnered with Future of Fish for a three-year project that will develop a ‘Community Hub’ for these fishing communities. It will begin with an initial ‘discovery analysis’ which will take a deep dive into communities, mapping power, and resources and exploring the socio-economic realities; looking at gender equity, family violence, resource management, and household income as well as climate change — it’s impacts and adaptation. Then, through engaging communities, NGOs, industry, supply chains, and local government, Future of Fish will facilitate the co-design of the community hub, which will be implemented over the following 2 years. Accompanying this work will be the establishment of a ‘leadership program’ where community members (50% women) will enroll in a leadership program which helps build the knowledge, confidence, and skills for community leaders to advocate for their rights to basic needs and improve the socio-economic resilience of the whole community. The anticipated results are strong fishing communities, where traditional fishing culture is valued, and where social and economic resilience thrives.

Future of Fish: We are extremely excited for this partnership, not only for the potential impacts to support coastal communities in Peru but to be learning with and from the Old Dart Foundation team. The project is focused on the socio-economic development of small-scale fishing communities in Northern Peru, recognizing the traditional fishing culture in the region and working to strengthen capacity to support the agency of the fishers. The project will not only support the leadership development of fishers but includes their families, recognizing and strengthening the role of women in seafood. This is an important and exciting project that complements our efforts in the sustainability of fisheries and improved value chains, being able to pilot a holistic strategy that looks for increased resilience of communities.

What problem does this project seek to address? Why is it important, and why now?

Old Dart Foundation: Despite the importance of artisanal fishing for not only the economy of coastal communities but the economy of Peru more widely, there is little regulation for sustainable management and community development. Fishing communities face a huge number of challenges exacerbated by a lack of formality, education, healthcare, lack of organization, association, and representation, as well as a lack of management and monitoring of stocks and fishing techniques. There are almost no opportunities for fisher communities to access better skills and technical capacity; become financially literate, organize and advocate for their own rights and hold their local governments accountable. This lack of protection makes them highly vulnerable to pressures; such as the economic and health shocks of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but also the immediate and growing threat of climate change and natural disasters.

Furthermore, worldwide, more than half of the workforce in the fishing sector is represented by women, but women’s contributions are largely invisible and their participation is largely undocumented.  Women are disproportionately impacted by and suffer the most from the challenges facing their communities, but they are also key agents responsible for building resilience to shocks and stresses.  Women have a major role to play in the education and healthcare of their families and the wider community but are also involved in adding value to the harvest, such as preserving fish and processing fish for market, and managing the family income. Women also play a central role in adapting to climate change and protecting community rights.

Future of Fish: Peru produces approximately 50% of the total volume of mahi-mahi in the world. Despite the importance of artisanal fishing for the coastal economies of Peru, there is little information and effective regulations for their sustainable management. At the community level, the challenges described above perpetuate the status quo and limit opportunities for socio-economic development.

Acknowledging these challenges and especially in the new context of COVID-19 and the need of fishers and communities to increase resilience to face crisis shocks, we believe a holistic approach that targets increased resilience and socio-economic development is needed. We have already been working to support small-scale fisheries to improve their business management, leadership, and resiliency through legal, traceable, and high-quality fishing adopted in a “true value” chain. This partnership with Old Dart Foundation allows us to expand and complement this work. Through improving social capital and gender equity we are working with the communities to build a co-managed fishery that increases local agency for decision making. By supporting the socio-economic development needed to enable thriving communities we are working in partnership driving triple impact for systems change.

Are there any particular elements of this partnership and project that you’re especially excited about?

Old Dart Foundation: For the Foundation, co-funding the growth and development of Future of Fish’s work in Peru in collaboration with a number of other donors is a unique opportunity to learn and connect. In order to achieve sustainable fishing, environmental action alone is not enough — it also requires the transformation of communities  Whilst our funding is focused on community development and women’s empowerment, we will work closely with the other funders who are focused on different aspects of FoF’s work, such as environmental protection or financial inclusion — providing a brilliant opportunity to learn and share. As a spend-down Foundation, we are committed to catalytic funding and are always conscious to ensure we do not foster dependency with our partners — therefore we have been really impressed at FoF’s ability to bring on board a diverse collection of donors, each who bring different expertise and support and help strengthen FoF’s long-term sustainability.

Future of Fish: Work with Old Dart funding will serve to strengthen the resilience of La Isilla and La Tortuga, through improving capabilities and access to social services. We are excited to be collaborating with incredible partners such as Cobi, Blue Ventures, CARE, and the Regional Government of Piura. Through leveraging a participatory and empowering process focusing on gender and youth inclusion we hope to be able to shift traditional mindsets. Reimagine the artisanal fishing community as a center for equitable collective action including youth and women through training in gender equity, access to health, and financial education. A new style of leadership that values traditional fishing culture while promoting new masculinities and preventing violence to improve socio-economic resilience.

What impact are you hoping this partnership and work will have?

Old Dart Foundation: Our joint ambition is to improve the quality of life and resilience to future stressors, alongside maintaining a healthy ocean environment, for fisher communities in La Islilla and La Tortuga. We partnered with Future of Fish because of their unique and innovative approach which centers communities and in the first year, they will be working with communities to define exactly what ‘impact’ will mean to them. Our hope is that our funding to Future of Fish as an organization will enable them to establish and grow in Peru and that their presence will be transformative for the fishing industry – protecting the communities and the marine environment in the long term.

Future of Fish: The project’s overall goal is to enable thriving and resilient Peruvian fishing communities that are stewards of a healthy ocean environment. The proposed program is directly targeting 160 fishers and seafood workers in the communities over the next three years, through peer-to-peer training and leadership development. The direct work of the proposal is with leaders, focusing on women and youth development at the local level, with positive impacts that will affect the community of ~2000 in La Islilla and ~2500 in La Tortuga. Jointly, our goals are to improve the socio-economic conditions through access to basic services, skills building, and resilience through the leadership in the co-definition and development of a Community Hub.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Old Dart Foundation: We are proud to partner with Future of Fish and have been impressed so far by the progress in the first 3 months of this project. We are excited to see what is coming next!

Future of Fish: We are extremely excited to be leveraging the knowledge and experience of the team at ODF.  We look forward to deepening our collaboration and expanding the stakeholders in service to the communities of La Islilla and La Tortuga.

At Future of Fish, we know that one organization can not shift the system alone. For more information on our partners and how to partner with us visit, or send an inquiry on our contact form


Old Dart Foundation and Future of Fish Logos

Published Nov 05, 2021