Capital markets and fishing

Over the past five years, the terms “unburnable carbon” and “carbon budget” have become permanent fixtures in the global climate change dialogue, popularized by the efforts of a U.K. organization called the Carbon Tracker Initiative (CTI).

Mainstream media, international agencies, institutional investors, central bankers and political leaders increasingly rely on these powerful words to communicate the gravity of the climate challenge to constituents.

But Mark Campanale, the founder of Investor Watch (the umbrella non-profit organization that founded CTI), had no intention of stopping there. Investor Watch launched its second project in 2016 titled the Fish Tracker Initiative, focused on large publicly traded companies in the fisheries sector.

“Like Carbon Tracker, the aim of Fish Tracker is to reveal the financial implications that the science of breaching environmental limits has for investors in companies engaged in seafood production activity,” wrote Campanale in the initiative’s first report, Empty Nets, released in October.

The report identified 228 publicly traded companies listed on stock exchanges around the world that have significant exposure to seafood production and processing, earning a combined $70.6 billion (U.S.) in annual seafood-related revenues. Of this amount, 77 per cent is generated by companies on just five stock exchanges: South Korea, Norway, Japan, Thailand and Chile.

Even so, these companies only account for a fraction of global fish production, a figure Fish Tracker estimates at 8 to 23 per cent. Private firms and individual fishers account for the vast majority of global production.

Regardless, investors are flying blind with only 16 per cent of listed companies providing enough necessary sourcing and product information to adequately judge their exposure to ecological limits. Just one out of every 10 of these companies has produced a publicly-available sustainability policy.

Fish Tracker will be expanding the scope of its research in the years to come into areas such as aquaculture and processing, describing the sector as “complex, opaque, lacking in available data and heterogeneous.”

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