World Oceans Day: Marine Sustainability at Mars Petcare – Sustainability Magazine

At the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, Canada proposed the concept of World Ocean Day. Four years later, The Ocean Project launched global coordination of World Ocean Day in collaboration with global partners and eight years later, World Oceans Day was officially recognised by the United Nations General Assembly on 8th June. 
In 2024, the World Oceans Day Action Theme is Catalyzing Action for Our Ocean and Climate in recognition of the urgency of fighting climate change – not just for the oceans, but the world.
At Mars Petcare there is an ambition to not only drive responsible sourcing practices within the business that improve the sustainability of fish supply chains, but to also engage with other businesses and NGOs to bring about industry wide improvements.
As a company with a global procurement presence, it understands the importance of engaging at the same scale to enact real change though Fishery Improvement Projects. Based on this belief, and through its partnership with WWF, Mars Petcare has joined the multi-stakeholder collaboration, the Fisheries Improvement Fund, to improve sustainability of fisheries on a large scale. 
Andrew Russell is the Global Marine Sustainability Lead at Mars Petcare where he leads the global work on fish sustainability for the company. As a specialist in marine science, his role incorporates both internal sourcing strategies and external project engagement. Before joining Mars Petcare in 2022, he held positions with NGOs and businesses focused on sustainability.
He sat down with Sustainability Magazine to share some thoughts on the blue economy and Mars Petcare’s marine work this World Oceans Day.
As its name suggests, the Peruvian anchoveta is a species of fish that mostly inhabits the cold waters surrounding Chile and Peru.  This small pelagic species has become critical to the economies of the Southeastern Pacific nations. In Chile alone, they contribute more than half of the volume of fish, with fisheries and aquaculture supporting the livelihoods of more than 300,000 people. 
The Peruvian anchoveta is small, usually only reaching around 20 cm in length, but what they lack in size they make up for in numbers, travelling in vast shoals along the expansive Chilean and Peruvian coastlines. For that reason, as well as their high nutritional value, they have become a commercially important species, consumed not only by humans but also used by aquaculture, livestock and pet food industries. But this species, which plays a key role in the food chain, faces threats from multiple angles, such as unsustainable fishing practices and fluctuating stock health due to climate change. 
Solving this complex challenge requires significant cross-sector collaboration, as well as a multilayer approach to help protect natural ecosystems, reduce pressure on fish populations, and support the livelihoods of people dependent on fish supply chains. At Mars, our Responsible Fish Sourcing Strategy focuses on: reducing pressure on ecosystems; rewarding sustainable, and traceable fish supply chains; restoring critical habitats through collaboration and respecting the human rights of those involved in our fish supply chains, 
Properly regulated fisheries are inherently more sustainable. By managing fishery operations, including for example catch limits, vessel monitoring and enforcement, and restrictions on fishing areas, governments and local communities can ensure fish stocks are healthy enough to sustain and where needed replenish the ecosystem. 
However, many fisheries that are aiming to improve their operations require significant investment into their long-term recovery and stability. Currently, one of the biggest challenges that fisheries involved in Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs) face is fragmented funding streams.
In April 2023, in a bid to address this very issue, Finance Earth – an impact investment advisory and fund manager in collaboration with WWF who Mars have been proud partners for the past 10 years – launched the Fisheries Improvement Fund (FIF), which aims to catalyse a US$100m investment in fisheries improvement by 2040. The FIF is an innovative multi stakeholder blue finance solution that brings together key industry players, including Mars Petcare.  The latest project in Chile, which was announced in April of this year, aims to improve the management and stock health of multiple small pelagic species in the region – particularly of Peruvian anchoveta in the Central-Southern Region.
At Mars, we depend on sustainably managed fish supply chains, as these nutritious ingredients are used in our pet food brands, such as SHEBA® and WHISKAS®. That’s why, alongside other businesses, Mars joined the FIF – committing US$1m to the fund over the next five years to support Fisheries Improvement Projects (FIPs). 
As well as sustaining fish populations through improved management, it’s also vital to invest in the restoration of natural habitats, particularly coral reefs, which are among the most biologically diverse and valuable ecosystems on the planet. An estimated 25% of all marine life, including over 4,000 species of fish, depend on them.  However, coral reefs are also among the most sensitive natural ecosystems, vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, warming ocean temperatures and damaging human activities. 
Coral reef restoration has a myriad of benefits. As well as being a vital habitat for many commercially important fish species, healthy reefs can act as natural barriers protecting coastlines from erosion and storms, draw tourists to boost local economies, and play a crucial role in supporting over a billion people who are reliant on coral reefs worldwide.

Only a few years ago, if you were to visit the shores of Sulawesi in Indonesia and the Salisi’ Besar reef, you would have found a barren seafloor, carpeted with highly mobile, grey coral rubble. Salisi’ Besar is just one of many coral reefs around the world that was once colourful and full of life, but was slowly withering away from the impacts of human activity. Thanks to a collaborative effort, led by the Mars brand SHEBA®, the reef has begun to be transformed as part of the world’s largest reef restoration program. In fact, today, if you were to look at satellite images of Salisi’ Besar, you would see the restored reef spells out the word H-O-P-E. So far, there has been a 64% rise in the number of fish species and coral growth has increased from just 2% to 70%. 
Programs like Sheba’s HOPE reef restoration, and the Fishery Improvement Fund are only made possible when partners who are dependent on the blue economy take accountability for the impact of their operations and commit to working hand-in-hand with local communities, experts, organisations, and others in the industry to address the issues surrounding sustainable sourcing. 
By thinking long-term and partnering across sectors to achieve scalable change, we can drive the regeneration of our most critical marine ecosystems and resources through restoration programs, from local fishing communities to global multi-nationals – collaboration remains the key to a more abundant future for all. 
Make sure you check out the latest edition of Sustainability Magazine and also sign up to our global conference series – Sustainability LIVE 2024
Sustainability Magazine is a BizClik brand
Sustainability LIVE London Global Summit welcomes ABB Motion Services, Sedex, Verco and Jump as its latest sponsors
Submissions have now closed for the Global Sustainability & ESG Awards 2024
Discover the panels that you can attend at Sustainability LIVE New York – the ultimate virtual event for sustainability leaders in North America
Sustainability Magazine connects the leading sustainability and ESG executives of the world's largest brands. Our platform serves as a digital hub for connecting industry leaders, covering a wide range of services including media and advertising, events, research reports, demand generation, information, and data services. With our comprehensive approach, we strive to provide timely and valuable insights into sustainable practices, fostering innovation and collaboration within the sustainability community. Join us today and shape a sustainable future for generations to come.