This has been a year of great impact for Rare. When I became CEO12 years ago, there were a handful of employees and about $20,000 in the bank. In June, we hired our hundredth staff member, and we closed out a 2012 budget of over $15 million. But to me it is not about getting bigger. It is about getting better.
Conservation is about people. Rare celebrates the impassioned commitment of people like Rare Conservation Fellow Renante “Tian” Cempron. Tian is the youngest of 10 children from a remote corner of the Philippines. Just like the estimated 120 million other small-scale fishers around the world, Tian’s father does his best to make a living and feed his family from the sea. But he has seen a rapid decline in fish catch due to overfishing, dynamite and cyanide.
Although a marine sanctuary was established in 2000 to help reefs recover, a lack of enforcement and understanding resulted in no change of fate for local fishers. In 2010, Tian and the municipality for which he works partnered with Rare to run a Pride campaign that uses proven marketing techniques to rally community support for behaviors that benefit people and the environment. He created a theme song, posters, T-shirts, stickers and a six-foot leopard grouper mascot named Meloy. Tian was not alone. Rare mentored 11 other fellows to promote sustainable fishing in the Philippines. Across the 12 communities, fish biomass increased by an average of 38.8 percent and documented intrusions in marine sanctuaries decreased from 81 to 15 — all in one year. At Tian’s site, fish biomass within the marine sanctuary increased by an astonishing 433 percent.
With billions of people relying on fish for protein, success stories like Tian’s give me hope. A recent study in Science magazine co-authored by Rare trustee Steve Gaines found that small-scale fisheries like Tian’s are worse off than we previously thought. But it is not too late. They can rebound.
Rare is ready. This year alone Rare has trained and mentored 99 Rare Conservation Fellowsto run Pride campaigns (nearly 40 percent of all campaigns since Rare began running them in 1988). 66 share Tian’s goal of restoring near-shore fisheries throughout the developing tropics.
Coupling Rare’s record of success in the marine realm with a unique win-win conservation and humanitarian opportunity, Rare is launching its first global initiative: Fish Forever. I like to think of Fish Forever as a new deal for oceans, a bargain that reflects our human condition. How can 100 million coastal fishers in the developing tropics feed themselves in the short term while allowing fisheries, coral reefs, sea grass beds and mangroves to flourish? Fish Forever.
Rare continues to replicate solutions in the terrestrial world as well. Dozens of Pride campaigns aim to protect the water supply for millions in the Andes while creating safe harbors for tiny, endemic frogs too few to count. In exchange for preserving cloud forest habitat, upstream farmers receive non-cash incentives like bee boxes for honey production. A water fund, created by downstream water users, finances the incentives that help upstream farmers preserve water quality and quantity. Within one year of Rare piloting this solution at 11 sites, 65 farmers put 3,894 hectares of private land under conservation, equal to 12 New York City Central Parks.
Rare also works in wetlands near the Yangtze River to conserve migratory birds and some of the world’s most endangered species, like the finless porpoise, while protecting fishers’ interests.
Rare’s impact builds as alumni continue to maintain and spread change in their communities around the world. Rare empowers local leaders to instill a lasting conservation ethos in people who stand to lose, and benefit, the most. Pride campaigns do not end with Rare’s training program. 73 percent of alumni sustained their campaigns after the formal relationship with Rare ended.
In 2012, Rare did what we do best, and more of it. We continue to tap into the emotion of pride to motivate communities to change their relationship with nature. To do this, we train and mentor local conservationists to become skilled marketers who sell the benefits of nature to their communities. This year Rare recognized the opportunity to take Pride campaigns to scale and replicate a proven solution in fisheries management: Fish Forever. In response, esteemed media outlets like The New York Times, Forbes, Time magazine and The Washington Post among others have recognized and celebrated Rare’s unique approach to conservation.
I am thankful for the many individuals like you that make Rare work. Thank you for having faith in our promise to change the world.
Please consider supporting Rare’s work by making a donation so that we can continue to make a difference for people and our planet into 2013 and beyond.
President & CEO, Rare