Vote to Help CI-Brazil’s “+ Sustainable Fisheries” Project Win a Google Grant

(UPDATE: We won! CI-Brazil’s project was one of several selected as winners for the Google Social Impact Challenge. Thanks to all who voted!)

We’re proud to announce that a project proposal from CI-Brazil is among the top 10 finalists for the Google Social Impact Challenge | Brazil. The contest aims to help nonprofits that are using innovation and technology to promote social change and positively impact local communities. Chosen from a pool of almost 800 applications, four of the 10 finalists will receive 1 million reals (about US$ 400,000) each to pursue their project. One of the four will be chosen by popular vote.

Today on Human Nature, CI-Brazil Marine Program Director Guilherme Dutra explains CI’s proposed project, “+ Sustainable Fisheries,” which aims to use smartphone technology to track fish from net to table. (Vote for it here by this Wednesday, May 7th!)

fisherman freediving for fish, Brazil

Freediving for reef fish in Brazil’s Abrolhos region. (© Paul Nicklen)

Q:  Why are sustainable fisheries so important to local communities?

A: Coastal communities around the world are directly dependent on fisheries as their main food and income source. Making fish stocks sustainable is an issue of survival for them.

There are around 60,000 families of traditional fishermen living in Brazil’s 22 marine extractive reserves. Our project will begin working with those who are among the most dependent on local fisheries, eventually expanding to other communities nationally and internationally.

Q: What sets CI’s project apart from the other nominees?

A: All 10 finalists represent good, creative ideas to promote social change in different communities through a diverse range of approaches: combatting violence against women, improving water quality, encouraging public service transparency, promoting solar energy, etc. Four of them are social-environmental projects, though CI-Brazil’s “+ Sustainable Fisheries” project is the only one focused on the marine environment.

When people talk about Brazil’s biomes, marine areas are often overshadowed by famous ecosystems like the Amazon rainforest. Under the Convention on Biological Diversity, a global treaty addressing the conservation of species and ecosystems, Brazil has agreed to protect at least 10% of its waters by 2020. Currently less than 2% of the country’s marine ecosystems are protected.

The degradation taking place in Brazil’s oceans may not be as visible as deforestation or other terrestrial threats to nature. But its impacts will still be felt — after all, most Brazilians like to eat seafood.

Declining fish catch is impacting the livelihoods of many Brazilian fishermen. We aim to improve fishing practices along the Brazilian coast by developing a system for tracking fish from the moment they arrive onshore until they land on the consumer’s plate, using QR codes that can be read by smartphones.

The goal is to insert transparency into production chains to make fishing more sustainable, improving the quality of the marine environment and the livelihoods of fishermen. Conscious consumers will also be able to access the application to ensure that the fish they purchase is responsibly sourced.

If this project is successful, it could be amplified in other seascape regions where CI works that face similar marine challenges. As CI is the only international organization among the finalists for this Google grant, I would argue that our project could potentially have the biggest global reach.

(If the English subtitles don’t show up in the video below, click the “cc” button.)

Q: If CI wins this grant, what will we do to take it to the next level?

A: In two years, we expect the app to be available for all 60,000 families of traditional fishermen living in Brazil’s marine extractive reserves. Once the tool is developed, we strongly believe that other programs working with fisheries in Brazil and worldwide can also benefit from the same system, adapting it to their local contexts and hopefully inspiring further positive change.

Molly Bergen is the senior managing editor of Human Nature. Guilherme Dutra is CI-Brazil’s marine program director. Please vote for CI-Brazil’s project by Wednesday, May 7th.  

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