COVID-19 Update on March 23, 2020: Before the WHO declared coronavirus to be a pandemic, we had been conducting farm visits in India to assess the potential for welfare improvements. However, as with many other things, this is no longer prudent. We will thus be postponing our country scoping work indefinitely until we deem it safe to continue. This will likely take several months. This is not a decision we came to lightly, as it means that most of our future plans outlined below must also be delayed. In the meantime, we will continue researching the most promising welfare improvements for fish. We will continue posting on Facebook and our blog. And as we work remotely and practice social distancing, we will continue to do all we can to promote the welfare of fish.
Fish Welfare Initiative has been operating for eight months now. During this time, we have written multiple organizational plans, conducted scoping work in different countries, and learned significantly more about the nuances involved with improving fish welfare. Through this process, we are now more confident than ever in our broad organizational strategy for the next three years:
Stage 1: Research and Setup
July 2019 - June 2020
This is the stage we are currently in. It involves 1) setting up the organization (registering, building the right team, initial fundraising), and 2) conducting initial research to shape our future intervention.
This research has involved providing preliminary answers to four questions:
Which are the most promising species to work on?
Which is the most promising country to work in?
What are the most promising welfare improvements to be made for farmed fish?
What is the most promising approach to take? By “approach”, we mean either corporate outreach, governmental outreach, providing direct training, etc. We are interested to receive input from various stakeholders on the ground (both NGOs and industry) regarding what approach allows us to have the biggest impact.
As of March 2020, we are midway through producing scoping reports on the most promising countries (see our Vietnam report) and have completed our approach research . We hired a Fish Welfare Specialist, Marco Cerquiera, to lead the welfare improvements research and assist with the species research.
Stage 2: Micro Level - Pilot Program
June 2020 - early 2021
After having completed our initial research, we will be in a position to set up an office in our country of implementation. This will most likely be in South or Southeast Asia. One crucial bottleneck may be finding the right person (i.e. future Managing Director) who can lead our in-country operations. We will begin hiring for this position shortly and encourage interested parties from these regions to contact us.
We will then work collaboratively with 1-4 producers to implement welfare improvement(s) on their facility, as informed by our research. The primary purpose of this is to gain a proof of concept that can be scaled up later. For instance, if it looks most promising to work on improving water quality in India, we will work with a couple of producers on improving water quality management. We will then draw from this experience and our findings to potentially work with the government on improving respective policies.
Depending on the success of the initial pilot, we may need to pivot one or multiple times before proceeding to scale. We aim to follow a model of validated learning.
Stage 3: Scale to Macro Level - Governmental or Corporate Outreach
Improved welfare in a few facilities will not be sufficient to justify the costs incurred to run FWI. Rather, cost-effectiveness will come at scale: by working with corporations and/or governments to scale up the improvements we will have tested in the pilot. This third stage is less certain, and will greatly depend on the country we choose to work in.
Stage 3 is the primary stage we expect FWI to exist in over the duration of its life. We aim to have sufficiently demonstrated that certain welfare improvements are both viable for industries and impactful for fish, and we envision working collaboratively with companies and/or governments to commit to and implement these improvements.
We welcome feedback on this plan. To do so, please comment below or reach out directly.