Scaling a successful model to help fishermen and food-insecure communities survive COVID-19
Mission: Build a nationwide network of next-generation fishermen who are strong advocates for sustainable fisheries and ocean stewardship.
The Multiplier Effect: Accelerate impact by drawing on financial and legal savvy to help coastal communities set up nonprofit fishing permit banks, purchase and protect the quota for local sustainable fishing businesses, and protect our oceans while generating sustainable livelihoods.
When fishermen and communities have an economic stake in the long-term health of their local fisheries, they become strong advocates for sustainable fisheries and ocean stewardship. Acting on that knowledge, Catch Together partners with fishing communities to create and launch community-owned permit banks and acquire and manage fishing quota.
Multiplier serves as Catch Together’s nonprofit home and operational backbone and also manages its centerpiece loan fund. The fund provides capital to permit banks: community organizations that purchase fishing quota (rights to a certain percentage of the catch in a fishery), and then lease that quota to local fishing businesses.
“With permit banks, it’s easier for small-scale fishing businesses to access capital and compete against larger fishing firms for the ability to fish in their own local waters,” says Paul Parker, Catch Together’s co-founder and president.
Nonprofit permit banks can bundle funding from a variety of sources to buy fishing quota, enabling them to lease quota to local fishermen at affordable rates. “It’s good for fishing communities and for our oceans: Small-scale fishing businesses generally use techniques that reduce bycatch and reduce overfishing,” he says.
About fishing quota and permit banks
Commercial fishing companies are required to purchase or lease fishing quota that gives them the right to a certain percentage of catch in a fishery. The system helps maintain fishery health, but it can put community fishermen, who often have little access to capital, at a disadvantage and unable to fish in their own waters.
Permit banks are community organizations that purchase fishing quota — from scallop to groundfish to snapper — and lease that quota to local fishing businesses at affordable rates.
The launch: Replicating a successful model throughout North America
The Catch Together team — Parker and Kelly Wachowicz — came to Multiplier in 2016 when a prominent family foundation agreed to fund the design and outreach phase of their new program. Parker had already founded a highly successful permit bank, the Cape Cod Fisheries Trust, and the team had an ambitious plan to replicate that success in other fishing communities with capital from national and local sources.
Parker and Wachowicz used philanthropic funding to design a loan fund that would capitalize the permit banks and allow fishing communities to invest in tradable quotas. That meant they needed a sophisticated partner that could provide legal and financial guidance and support the organization’s infrastructure while building capacity in communities, cementing relationships with funders, and designing innovative financing vehicles.
“Multiplier was a slam dunk,” says Wachowicz, Catch Together’s co-founder and chief financial officer, and a specialist in sustainable fisheries impact investment and deal structuring. “Multiplier had really best-in-class services, and we saw that there could be helpful synergies and insights for the broader expansion of our strategy. We just knew they were going to be an accelerator for our work.”
Multiplier could also help them get funding in place fast so they could design and build the program.
“We had established relationships with several of the foundations on Catch Together’s radar,” says Laura Deaton, Multiplier’s executive director. “And Paul and Kelly are savvy, experienced, and well connected — attributes that always help jump-start a new program on the path to impact.”
The strategy: Bring the loan fund in-house for maximum impact
Once on board at Multiplier with early funding, Catch Together began cultivating the first cohort of fishing communities that could establish permit banks. The team also began putting the framework in place for building out the impact investment element of their work — a loan fund that would give the permit banks access to capital — and exploring ways to host the fund. They considered forming a separate LLC or outsourcing management of the loan fund, but ultimately Parker and Wachowicz came to Multiplier with a third option: housing the loan fund at Multiplier. The co-founders and the Multiplier team were working well together, and Multiplier’s side-by-side management would bring the philanthropic and impact investing work under one operational umbrella, eliminating the need for a separate loan administrator.
With a $5 million funding commitment from a donor-advised fund at a local community foundation, Multiplier and Catch Together worked with attorneys to structure an innovative, nonrecourse $4.2 million loan fund and side-by-side operating grant package that enabled them to conduct due diligence and make downstream concessionary loans to permit banks while shielding them from risk if any of the permit banks defaulted on their loans.
“Multiplier really dove into helping design and administering the loan fund,” says Wachowicz. “And they did it well, because they’re ambitious and entrepreneurial and have existing core competencies that make them an excellent partner.”
After hammering out the legal agreement and compliance issues, Multiplier took on the administration of the Catch Together Fisheries Fund, drawing down funds from the community foundation, administering the downstream loans to permit banks, and collecting principal and interest payments when due. Loans are priced at concessionary rates to allow the permit banks — most of which are new and have limited access to other capital — to acquire as much quota as possible with the funding available. As the permit banks repay their loans, the upstream loan from the donor-advised fund also gets repaid, and those funds are recycled into Fisheries Fund loans to new permit banks.
The win: Permit banks formed, quota secured, fisheries’ health on the rise
“We know that capital is a key lever to support local, sustainable fishermen in coastal communities,” says Wachowicz. “We started with a 10-year vision to help 15 to 20 communities and vest permit banks with $30 million for quotas that can serve as engines of long-term business sustainability while protecting and advancing sustainable fisheries throughout the U.S. and Canada. Multiplier is definitely helping us to reach that goal.”
So far, Multiplier and Catch Together have helped fund quota acquisitions and leasing in Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico, and New England. By combining Catch Together Fisheries Fund investments with the assets of local fishing communities, they’ve helped permit banks purchase more than $10 million in quota for their communities, providing enduring access for local fishermen to fish sustainably in their own waters.
“It’s proven to me that it’s possible to co-create — you don’t have to do it all yourself,” says Wachowicz. “With Multiplier, we were able to combine forces to do more. They accelerated our success beyond what it would have been if we’d had to fulfill all the roles they play on our own.”
Pandemic response: Helping fishermen and food-insecure communities survive COVID-19
The strong relationship also enabled the partners to step up to meet the challenges posed by COVID-19. The pandemic is devastating fishing businesses and their communities, which depend on restaurants, universities, and other institutional customers. The partners secured an additional $5.5 million in grant funds to provide immediate relief to fishing communities, and Multiplier deferred all payments for Fisheries Fund loans to permit banks.
The additional pandemic relief funding allowed Multiplier to create a structured program for fishing communities across the U.S. that extends well beyond the current loan portfolio. It includes full-circle support mechanisms that subsidize permit banks’ purchase of fresh local seafood, which they donate to food pantries and other regional hunger relief efforts; they may also have it processed into more shelf-stable seafood products to donate. The partners hope this short-term effort will not only feed local families — it will deliver more than 1.5 million meals — but also open new channels for sustainable seafood sales down the road.
“In addition to providing key operational and administrative supports to fuel Catch Together’s success, we became an active part of delivering on their mission in the communities they serve,” says Deaton. “We share the mission of the projects that we support, so we’re committed to innovating alongside our projects to multiply their impact.”
- Network Leveraged relationships with Catch Together and funding partners to foster trust while co-creating a complex financing arrangement and mitigating risk.
- Funding Co-created a new funding mechanism that leveraged a $5 million loan fund into $10 million in quota now held by permit banks for local, sustainable fishing businesses.
- Philanthropy Advanced a unique model for philanthropists to advance sustainable fishing via foundation funding and program-related investments that stimulate private sector innovation, encourage market-driven efficiencies, and attract external capital to support their charitable priorities.
Consulting: Leveraged the expertise of Multiplier staffers in navigating a variety of complex strategic, financial, and program challenges within the bounds of IRS compliance.
Loan fund design and administration: Worked across teams and with legal counsel to design and administer a novel nonrecourse, multilevel loan fund that advances sustainable local fisheries and protects both Catch Together and Multiplier from risk.
Operations support: Managed all infrastructure and operations, including grant management, payroll and benefits, and finance so that the program team could focus on timely and responsive program delivery.
Project type: Startup
Focus area: Sustainable fisheries
Duration: 2016 to present
Major funding: Multiple family foundation grants; $4.2 million program-related investment from a community foundation donor-advised fund; $5.5 million relief grant
SDGs: Decent Work and Economic Growth (8), Reduced Inequalities (10)