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Fisheries Innovation Fund

National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF)

Grant amount: US $50,000 - US $100,000

Deadline: The deadline for this grant has passed

Applicant type: Government Entity Nonprofit For-Profit Business College / University Indigenous Group Unaffiliated Researcher Faculty Postdoctoral Researcher Working Professional

Funding uses: Research, Applied Project / Program

Location of project: United States

Location of residency: United States



The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) will award grants to foster innovation and support effective participation of fishermen and fishing communities in the implementation of sustainable fisheries in the U.S. We anticipate awarding up to $950,000 through this solicitation. This solicitation also makes available funding provided through Community Service funds (arising from a federal environmental prosecution for benefits to marine wildlife and habitats).

The Fisheries Innovation Fund was created through a partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The program seeks to support fishermen and communities as they work to meet the sustainable fisheries goals of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2006, including provisions to help:

  • rebuild overfished stocks;
  • sustain fishermen, communities, and vibrant working waterfronts;
  • promote safety, fishery conservation and management; and
  • promote community and economic benefits. 

Successful proposals will develop and carry out innovative approaches that: 

  • Promote full utilization of Annual Catch Limits and minimize bycatch of overfished species and/or endangered, threatened, and candidate species;
  • Develop and implement market, research, training, or strategic planning measures to build capacity and improve sustainability of U.S. fishing businesses and communities;
  • Support improvements to recreational fisheries conservation and management;
  • Support implementation of marine aquaculture.

Program Priorities

Proposals submitted to the Fisheries Innovation Fund should address one or more of the program priorities listed below. All proposals should outline the conservation benefits of the project, which will likely refer to the sustainable use and/or recovery of the target species. Monitoring change over time will be a key aspect of project proposals.

When addressing these priorities, projects should seek to either: 

  • Develop or pilot innovative ideas – Competitive proposals will develop, test, and/or pilot innovative solutions to known fisheries challenges. Innovations from all U.S. fisheries will be considered.
  • Implement proven innovations at-scale - Competitive implementation proposals will scale-up proven innovations that are positioned to impact a significant portion of the fleet and/or multiple fishing communities. When applicable, such proposals will focus on the diffusion, adoption, and application of innovative strategies. 

1. Bycatch Reduction and Capacity Building: Priority for Bycatch Reduction and Capacity Building will be given to projects that address at least one of the strategies described below. Priority will be given to implementation-scale projects within one or more of the four focal fisheries, but innovations from all U.S. fisheries will be considered. Exceptions apply (see bullet d). 

  • ​Develop bycatch reduction initiatives that enhance opportunities for fishermen to fully utilize annual catch limits. This may include innovative, collaborative approaches such as bycatch hotspot mapping or risk pooling, which allow fishermen to continue to harvest while reducing impacts on protected, overfished, and non-target species and their habitats. 
    • Proposals to develop and implement strategies to reduce bycatch through gear innovations should consider applying to the NOAA Bycatch Reduction Engineering Program.
  • Build the capacity of individual fishermen and/or sectors to improve the sustainability, economic viability, and efficiency of fishing businesses and communities including developing community sustainability plans and/or business plans that support financial stability of fishermen and/or communities.
    • Projects might also include implementing innovations to help retain access to fisheries resources (e.g. permit or quota banks) or promoting inter-generational fishery access and entry level access into the fishery. 
  • Facilitate market innovations, such as differentiated product and forward contracting marketplaces. This may include projects that diversify revenue, create value-added products, or develop new markets for underutilized species.
  • There may be additional funding available for implementing bycatch reduction strategies for marine mammals and/or sea turtles in the following regions: the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and other important habitat for sea turtles and marine mammals in coastal waters along the Southern District of Florida, the Gulf of Maine in areas that are identified as priority for northern right whales, and on the West Coast, Alaska, and Hawaii in fisheries that interact with sea turtles and marine mammals. To be eligible, projects under this category must demonstrate a reduction in bycatch within the period of performance. Projects that are developing a prototype and/or indirectly contributing to reductions in bycatch are not eligible for these funds. Eligible projects will promote voluntary use of bycatch reduction devices in active fisheries resulting in reduced bycatch. Federal or non-federal matching funds are encouraged for projects in this sub-category but not required (please contact NFWF if you propose to apply without a 1:1 match). 

2. Recreational Fisheries: Priority for Recreational Fisheries will be given to projects that address at least one of the following strategies. Priority will be given to implementation-scale projects within one or more of the four focal fisheries but innovations from all U.S. fisheries will be considered. 

  • ​Improve monitoring and assessment strategies that are consistent with the priorities and complement research projects of the NOAA Fisheries Marine Recreational Information Program including, but not limited to, innovative dockside surveying methods and other mechanisms to help improve the quality and efficiency of gathering data.
  • Address current needs identified by the recreational sector through the NOAA Fisheries National Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Policy Implementation Plan, including, but not limited to: supporting ecosystem conservation and enhancement, promoting public access to quality recreational fishing opportunities, and advancing innovative solutions to evolving science, management, and environmental challenges. The Regional Recreational Fisheries Implementation Plans may also be utilized in identifying specific regional needs.  
    • ​​​​Reduce discard mortality and improve handling practices. This may include expanding the adoption of best management practices and other technologies that reduce discard mortality or evaluation of discard mortality rates in recreational fisheries. 
    • Explore alternative approaches to recreational fisheries management that addressdata gaps and support angler engagement and capacity building. This may include increasing angler awareness and understanding of fisheries science and management practices, or developing new strategies to address the needs of recreational anglers in sustainable fishery management.

3. ​​Marine Aquaculture: Priority for Marine Aquaculture will be given to projects that address at least one of the strategies described below for offshore aquaculture in one of the following geographies: 1) New England, 2) Southern California or 3) the Gulf of Mexico. Offshore aquaculture is typically defined as open ocean locations or locations in federal waters. Also, priority will be given to marine aquaculture of mollusks or seaweed in 4) Alaska (termed “mariculture”).  

  • ​Projects that engage communities, management agencies, ocean users and others in the development and implementation of risk management strategies and plans that will help to identify, minimize and mitigate risk factors associated with marine aquaculture (e.g., transfer of disease, water quality, fish escapes, genetic effects on wild populations, impacts on other marine wildlife, etc.) and protect the ecological quality of the seabed.
  • Projects that engage communities, management agencies, ocean users and others in development of plans to inform the appropriate siting of marine aquaculture operations, avoiding environmental risks and reducing the potential for ocean use conflicts. This could include projects that draw from existing environmental and ocean use data and may contribute new data products or analyses that facilitate the implementation of environmentally sustainable aquaculture. 

Funding Availability and Match

The Fisheries Innovation Fund will award up to $950,000 in grants for the 2018 funding cycle. The majority of awards under this program will fall in the range of $50,000 to $100,000, although upper or lower limits to award size are not specified. Project periods must start within six months of the RFP release date and cannot exceed two years. 

We've imported the main document for this grant to give you an overview. You can learn more about this opportunity by visiting the funder's website.


  • Eligible applicants include non-profit 501(c) organizations, state government agencies, local governments, municipal governments, Indian tribes, educational institutions, businesses, international organizations, and unincorporated individuals.
  • Matching contributions from non-U.S. Federal sources (both cash and in-kind) must equal or exceed a 1:1 ratio (100% of the award amount) unless otherwise noted. 
    • Grant proposals with higher match rates may be more competitive.
  • The Fisheries Innovation Fund is a national program and will consider proposals that develop or implement innovations in all U.S. fisheries, both commercial and recreational.


  • Unless otherwise noted, priority will be given to projects in one of four focal fisheries:
    • New England groundfish fishery,
    • West Coast groundfish fishery,
    • the Gulf of Mexico reef fish fishery, and
    • the Gulf of Alaska halibut and groundfish fisheries. 


  • Ineligible applicants include U.S. Federal government agencies, including Regional Fisheries Management Councils
  • Ineligible Uses of Grant Funds 
    • NFWF funds and matching contributions may not be used to support political advocacy, fundraising, lobbying, litigation, terrorist activities or Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations.
    • NFWF funds may not be used to support ongoing efforts to comply with legal requirements, including permit conditions, mitigation and settlement agreements. However, grant funds may be used to support projects that enhance or improve upon existing baseline compliance efforts. 
  • Fisheries operating outside of the U.S. are ineligible for funding under this opportunity. 

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