Introduction

The Animal Welfare Fund made the following grants in March and April 2022:

  • Total grants: $2,175,000
  • Number of grantees: 24
  • Acceptance rate (excluding desk rejections): 29%
  • Payout date: March - April, 2022
  • Report authors: Kieran Greig (Chair), Alexandria Beck, Karolina Sarek, Marcus Davis, Mikaela Saccoccio

The three primary areas we granted to in this round were:

  1. Large-scale and neglected animal populations (for instance, farmed fish).
  2. Large-scale and neglected geographies (for instance, work in medium or large Asian countries).
  3. Exploratory work regarding policy and/or alternative proteins (for instance, attempting to secure government funding for research and development of alternative proteins).

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Highlights

Notable grants for this round included:

  • Anonymous($185,000):
    • This grant will support piloting a new fellowship program to help address talent bottlenecks in Southeast Asia.
    • We think the leaders of this program are thoughtful, aligned individuals with impressive track records.
    • Southeast Asia is one of the areas that we’re particularly excited about further work in, because it is a highly neglected area for farmed animal advocacy.
    • We believe this fellowship program could become key infrastructure for scaling work in this region in the future.
  • Australian Alliance for Animals ($50,000): 
    • Initial seed funding for a new organization to unite the Australian animal protection sector with the aim of increasing its political influence.
    • This seed grant supports some very experienced and aligned advocates in transitioning into a full-time Australian policy/advocacy group.
    • We believe this is particularly valuable because policy will be an area of significant growth for the movement.
  • Shrimp Welfare Project ($45,000):
    • This will support a relatively new group to work with farmers and the rest of the supply chain in India and Vietnam to improve farmed shrimp welfare.
    • There is no other animal welfare group explicitly focused on shrimp.
    • This could eventually impact upwards of several billion shrimp every year.

Grant recipients

In addition to the grants described below, 1 grant (totalling $42,000) have been excluded from this report at the request of their applicants. 

See below for a list of grantees' names, grant amounts, and brief grant descriptions:

  • Wild Animal Initiative ($400,000): General operating expenses to cultivate an academic field dedicated to wild animal welfare.
  • Rethink Priorities ($250,000): Support for wild animal welfare and invertebrate welfare research for a year.
  • Anonymous ($185,000): A year’s funding to continue the capacity-building work through the pilot Southeast Asia Farm Animal Welfare Fellowship.
  • Cambridge Effective Altruism CIC ($130,000): Funding for Cambridge EA's alt-protein field-building efforts for a year.
  • Africa Network for Animal Welfare ($105,000): Campaigns against battery cages in East Africa and researching the state of caged chicken farming in West Africa.
  • Animal Alliance Asia ($100,000): Culture-specific workshops for animal welfare advocates to increase efficacy in Asia.
  • Çiftlik Hayvanlarını Koruma Derneği (Farm Animals Protection Association) ($100,000): A year’s salary for new hires and other costs to increase capacity for cage-free campaigns and fish welfare outreach in Turkey.
  • Insect Welfare Project (temporary name) ($100,000): Launch lobbying, investor and producer campaigns in insect farming and to slow the growth of this sector.
  • CellAg Germany ($98,000): 1-year salary for a general manager of CellAg Germany to accelerate cellular agriculture through policy work & services.
  • Eurogroup for Animals ($96,000): Funding staff to hinder EU deregulation on insect farming by researching, coordinating and lobbying.
  • Pia Voltz ($83,000): Seed funding for a new organization focused on talent bottlenecks in the alternative protein industry.
  • Aquatic Life Institute ($80,000): Salaries for current staff at the Aquatic Animal Alliance.
  • Australian Alliance for Animals ($50,000): Seed funding for a new organization to unite the Australian animal protection sector to increase its political influence.
  • Dyrenes Alliance ($50,000): 12-month salary to set up a new Danish campaign, focused on fish.
  • Sống Thuần Chay (STC) ($50,000): Operational expenses to hire a corporate outreach manager and support staff for Vietnamese vegan advocacy campaigns.
  • Shrimp Welfare Project ($45,000): General support to work with farmers and the rest of the supply chain in India and Vietnam to improve farmed shrimp welfare.
  • Humánny pokrok ($43,000): Capacity building and community engagement in Slovak animal advocacy movement.
  • Healthier Hens ($40,000): Research to test the efficacy of an intervention to reduce the rate of keel bone fractures in laying hens.
  • DC Voters for Animals ($35,000): Annual part-time salary for the Executive Director to lobby for a fur ban in Washington, DC.
  • Utunzi Animal Welfare Organization ($31,000): A cage-free farming educational and awareness project targeting layer hen farmers in 4 counties in Kenya.
  • FAADA ($27,000): Funding for research on the impact of stunning on crustacean meat quality or welfare and funding a campaign for stunning before slaughter.
  • Education for African Animals Welfare (EAAW) ($20,000): Strengthen cage-free information packaging and educating with the general public
  • Animal Ask ($15,000): Completing focused research to assist the farmed animal welfare movement with the prioritization of their welfare campaigns.

Grant reports

  • Wild Animal Initiative ($400,000): General operating expenses to cultivate an academic field dedicated to wild animal welfare.
    • This grant is heavily informed by our reasoning that (a) wild animals may have many very negative experiences throughout their lives, and (b) there seems to be on the order of trillions or more wild vertebrates and quintillions or more wild invertebrates, leading to our inference that (c) the welfare of wild animals is a highly important issue. Despite this, there are only a handful of organizations working in this area. We believe WAI is presently a strong candidate for being the most impactful organization in this space.
    • To us, WAI's accomplishments seem quite promising, albeit still preliminary. Their main public output has been research pieces. They’ve published a paper in an academic journal on how wild animal welfare and restoration ecology could mutually benefit each other. Other research includes white papers and posts on persistence and reversibility, optimal population density, humane insect management, and a report on biomarkers of aging. Their new research strategy is more focused on collaborating with external researchers and institutions to grow the pool of scientists working on wild animal welfare. It seems relatively uncontroversial to think that having a strong research base will play an important role in improving the welfare of wild animals. It's encouraging to us that building up this research ecosystem is WAI's stated highest priority, and their overall approach to doing this strikes us as quite reasonable.
    • Despite being a promising and relatively established group, Wild Animal Initiative does not yet receive any general support from multimillion-dollar donors (though note that Open Philanthropy has provided restricted funding for regranting to scientists). That has created a somewhat unique comparative advantage for the AWF, and means that we are presently a major wild animal welfare funder. Given this, we feel comfortable filling roughly 30% of WAI's budget, which is a proportional decrease on each of the past two years. This amount also corresponds with us disbursing a similar fraction of the overall fund's portfolio to this group as we have in 2019 and 2020.
    • The very large scale and large degree of neglect of wild animals means there's potential for even small investments to generate enormous positive impact, and WAI's role as a catalyst for a research ecosystem seems both promising and uncontentious to us. Combining those factors with the fund seemingly having a strong comparative advantage over other major funders here, as well as our continued longer granting cycle, we are quite excited to provide $400,000 to support WAI. We believe that supporting WAI at this early stage offers serious potential for massive impact.
  • Rethink Priorities ($250,000): Support for wild animal welfare and invertebrate welfare research for a year.
    • Rethink Priorities is a research organization whose largest project involves examining the most important, neglected, and tractable questions for cost-effectively improving animal welfare. Following up on our previous grants to the organization, we are continuing to provide funding for their animal welfare-focused research. This specific grant will primarily support its work on wild animal welfare and invertebrate welfare, though we view this as somewhat fungible with its other animal-focused research.
    • We've been impressed by the organization's animal-focused research over the last few years, especially on neglected farmed animal welfare problems and strategies (e.g., fish stocking), and on invertebrate welfare and sentience. We see the latter as the best research being conducted on the subject anywhere, and we see the organization as a leader in building out that field through projects such as their invertebrate sentience project, their insect welfare project (mentioned in more detail below), and their shallow reviews on different farmed invertebrate species (including crustaceans, honey bees, and snails). So far, their wild animal welfare work feels somewhat more unproven, but we have been encouraged by recent work on rodenticides and reducing aquatic noise. That work should also help to diversify efforts within that space, and complement Wild Animal Initiative's academic field-building efforts.
    • We are excited to see further analysis of the expected impact that this work will have on both organizations and funders in the sector. Perhaps most importantly, we're excited to continue to support what we now view as clearly one of the most exciting research organizations in our space.
  • Anonymous ($185,000): A year’s funding to continue the capacity-building work through the pilot Southeast Asia Farm Animal Welfare Fellowship.
    • Out of all regions, Asia has the highest production of farmed animals; and yet when it comes to the number of people working on those issues, it is one of the most neglected. More effective capacity building is likely to increase the number of people working on animal advocacy, and consequently increase the chance of progress in this field. The group has a strong record in various movement-building activities, and the first edition of the fellowship attracted 31 participants from 6 South East Asian countries. In this year's program they aim to reach 48-84 fellows, targeting ~20% of the cohort in making a career switch within 0-12 months of the completion of the fellowship.
  • Cambridge Effective Altruism CIC ($130,000): 12-month funding for Cambridge EA's alt-protein field-building efforts.
    • We are funding salaries for staff and facilitators for an event to build talent pipelines in the alternative protein space at Cambridge University by supporting Cambridge EA’s upcoming Alternative Protein Fundamentals Program (APFP). We think there’s a reasonable chance that such a program will increase the number of research years spent in the alternative protein space, an area that could be very important for reducing the amount of factory farming. Further, we think APFP’s transparency is likely to provide some lessons learned about what is and is not effective about running such outreach, given they are highly transparent with their plans, and have published a retrospective on their structurally similar Summer 2021 AGI Safety Fundamentals program.
  • Africa Network for Animal Welfare ($105,000): Engage in campaigns against battery cages in East Africa and researching the state of caged chicken farming in West Africa.
    • The Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW) will use grant funds to carry out campaigns in East Africa against battery cages, and also to carry out a study on the status of battery cage farming in Nigera, Ghana, and Sierra Leone with the goal of informing a cage-free strategy for West African countries. ANAW produced similar reports on caged farming in Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, and Tanzania. These reports are filling key information gaps that we hope will result in a more robust cage-free campaign throughout Africa.
  • Animal Alliance Asia ($100,000): Culture-specific workshops for advocates to increase efficacy in this region.
    • Animal Alliance Asia works to empower animal advocates across Asia. The group will use funds to hire key program staff, facilitate a series of country workshops, and host the third Animal Advocacy Conference Asia. The events will be tailored to audiences from Hong Kong, India, Myanmar, Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Taiwan, China, and Japan to increase the effectiveness of the burgeoning animal protection movement in these countries. Given that Asia is the world’s largest producer and consumer of farmed animals, we’re excited about the potential of these events to expand the capacity of local organizations in the region.
  • Çiftlik Hayvanlarını Koruma Derneği (Farm Animals Protection Association) ($100,000): A year’s salary for new hires and other costs to increase capacity for cage-free campaigns and fish welfare outreach in Turkey.
    • We are providing funds to the Farm Animals Protection Association in Turkey to grow their team and increase capacity to carry out cage-free and fish welfare campaigns. Turkey is home to 120 million hens, ~80% of which are currently housed in cage facilities. This organization has already had success securing over a dozen cage-free commitments in Turkey and one fish welfare commitment from a major retailer.
  • Insect Welfare Project (temporary name) ($100,000): Launch lobbying, investor and producer campaigns in insect farming and to slow the growth of the sector.
    • Although insects are farmed and harmed in the trillions, no charity exists that directly addresses the welfare issues facing them. Objections have been raised about whether insects are sentient and can experience pain and pleasure in a morally significant way. However, recent research on the topic provides some evidence in that direction. We believe that work on insect welfare could potentially be very impactful. Insect farming companies are currently raising hundreds of millions of dollars to expand production. Businesses are working to replace fishmeal with insects and on raising black soldier fly larvae on food waste, which could dramatically reduce the cost of rearing insects. If both projects succeed, potentially tens or hundreds of trillions of animals could be born into new farms. Therefore, we are excited to further fund a project that aims to further identify the best opportunities to ensure the protection of farmed insects.
  • CellAg Germany ($98,000): 1-year salary for a general manager of CellAg Germany to accelerate cellular agriculture through policy work & services.
    • According to Humbird’s (2020) techno-economical analysis of cultivated meat, there are significant barriers to scaling up cell-based meat production. Currently, though we have some skepticism of the field (compared to some other ways of improving animal welfare). However, a major government spending towards open access R&D along with reduced regulatory barriers could speed up the progress in developing scalable cellular agriculture solutions in the long term. This grant is a 1-year support to CellAg Germany to hire their first full-time employee to conduct political advocacy toward achieving that.
  • Eurogroup for Animals ($96,000): Funding staff to hinder EU deregulation on insect farming by researching, coordinating and lobbying.
    • Eurogroup for Animals is a well-established animal advocacy organization in Europe looking to expand their work in order to hinder the industrial farming of insects, which is currently undergoing a series of regulatory processes at the EU level. We think this grant provides an opportunity for an experienced group to get involved in a very neglected area. Funds will be used for research and staff costs.
  • Tälist ($83,000): Seed funding for a new organization focused on talent bottlenecks in the alternative protein industry.
    • There is some initial evidence suggesting that talent and skill gaps are limiting progress to advancing alternatives to animal products. Two consultants with recruiting experience will use this grant to conduct expert interviews to identify talent bottlenecks in the alternative protein industry. With that data, Pia and Lauren will then pilot a new organization dedicated to helping mission-aligned individuals find high-impact jobs and helping startups attract and retain high-quality candidates in the alternative protein industry. It’s our impression that recruiting agencies are standard in many sectors, and could act as an expediter to scaling the alternative protein industry.
  • Aquatic Life Institute ($80,000): Salaries for current staff at the Aquatic Animal Alliance.
    • Aquatic animals make up the overwhelming majority of vertebrate animals killed for food, with estimates easily reaching into the few hundred billion slaughtered annually. The Aquatic Animal Alliance seems to have made promising progress in their short history, including influencing five of the most important global aquaculture certifiers to incorporate recommendations to upcoming standards. These recommendations include environmental enrichment and one certifier banning the use of insects for feed. This grant supports the salary of one full-time staff member and another team member spending ~40% of their time on related work for nine months.
  • Australian Alliance for Animals ($50,000): Initial seed funding for a new organization to unite the Australian animal protection sector to increase its political influence.
    • For a high-income country, Australia has relatively poor animal protection laws, indeed scoring E (out of A-G) on protection of animals used in farming on the Global Animal Protection Index. Even though the scale of factory farming is not as large in Australia as in some of the other countries that our fund tends to prioritize, the possible tractability makes this a promising opportunity. This grant is an initial seed funding to Australian Alliance for Animals to coordinate policy work and establish relationships with key groups in Australia. Coordination seems to be a key element of effective political advocacy for animal advocacy and this group seem to be in a good place to lead such actions. Even though the Alliance is new, the leadership staff seem to have a strong relevant track record, and received strong references and support from some of the most influential animal welfare organisations in the country.
  • Dyrenes Alliance ($50,000): 12-month salary to set up a new campaign focused on fish, as well as funding for advertisements and printed materials.
    • Dyrenes Alliance in Denmark will use grant funds to kick off a new fish welfare campaign and hire a project manager. The group is interested in developing a strategy in partnership with the Aquatic Animal Alliance and using their extensive grassroots network of community organizers to support the campaign. Denmark is home to roughly 11M finfish and there aren’t any organizations actively pursuing fish welfare work in the Nordic countries.
  • Sống Thuần Chay (STC) ($50,000): Operational expenses to hire a corporate outreach manager and support staff for our vegan advocacy campaigns.
    • This grassroots Vietnamese group will hire a corporate outreach manger to develop a restaurant outreach program. We see disproportionate value to seeding grassroots advocacy in this large, neglected nation, which we estimate has roughly as many farm animals as the US (mainly via farmed fish).
  • Shrimp Welfare Project ($45,000): General support to work with farmers and the rest of the supply chain in India and Vietnam to improve farmed shrimp welfare.
    • Shrimp Welfare Project is a new group launched in late 2021 that works on a high priority and neglected area: improving farmed shrimp welfare in Asia. They are one of the only groups who are working exclusively on crustaceans even though there are many times more farmed shrimps than the combined number of farmed land animals. We are offering them support to start working with farmers to provide welfare-focused training and free technical assistance on water quality monitoring.
  • Humánny pokrok ($43,000): Capacity building and community engagement in Slovak animal advocacy movement.
    • Humánny pokrok is a well established group in Slovakia with a track record of winning a national fur farming ban and securing a commitment from the Slovak poultry union to go cage-free by 2030, among other achievements. The group will use grant funds to expand their capacity by scaling up their volunteer and community engagement programs. Specifically, they plan to hire a social media manager to improve their ability to recruit, identify, and train future leaders in the region.
  • Healthier Hens ($40,000): Research to test the efficacy of two promising interventions to reduce the rate of keel bone fractures in laying hens.
    • Healthier Hens is a new group pursuing improving laying hen welfare via feed fortification. The lack of a high quality diet or feeding regime can contribute to many health problems for hens including keel bone fractures which could be very painful. Though we are uncertain about the overall importance of keel bone fractures relative to other harms for egg-laying hens, we are supporting Healthier Hens to facilitate the study of the potential of dietary interventions to reduce keel bone fractures.
  • DC Voters for Animals ($35,000): Annual part-time salary for the Executive Director to lobby for a fur ban in Washington, DC.
    • DC Voters for Animals (DCVFA) is a relatively new organization working to advance animal protection through policy and politics in Washington, DC. With this grant, DCVFA will lobby to ban fur sales in DC through the Council. DCVFA has already built promising relationships with relevant policymakers and generated goodwill through candidate questionnaires. We expect this fur ban campaign to generate positive media attention and help animal advocates gain important policy experience, laying the foundation for future work.
  • Utunzi Animal Welfare Organization ($31,000): A cage-free farming educational and awareness project targeting layer hen farmers in 4 counties in Kenya.
    • We are awarding a grant to Utunzi Animal Welfare Organization, a newly established group in Kenya, to support cage-free work. Kenya is home to ~12M layer hens and battery cages are quickly gaining popularity throughout Africa as industrial agriculture continues to expand throughout the continent. This new organization is well connected with other groups in the area, is a member of the Open Wing Alliance, and will focus on providing training and education for farmers in countries with the highest concentrations of layer hens.
  • FAADA ($27,000): Funding for research on the impact of stunning on crustacean meat quality or welfare and funding a campaign for stunning before slaughter.
    • According to a recent LSE report, there is strong evidence of sentience in crabs and lobsters. Yet the current practices do not involve stunning before slaughter, likely causing pain to animals. FAADA has already started advocating on this and claim they’ve made significant progress, however corporations argue against this with concerns over meat quality. Research on that issue currently does not exist and the results will be helpful in advocacy efforts by FAADA and other European groups interested in such work. FAADA has identified a seemingly reputable institution to conduct their research who has previously engaged with the government and industry, increasing the odds of the research being influential.
  • Education for African Animals Welfare (EAAW) ($20,000): Strengthen cage-free information packaging and sharing with the general public.
    • This funding will support the continuation of Education for African Animals Welfare's (EAAW) cage-free awareness creation and campaigning in Tanzania that began in 2021. EAAW works collaboratively and strategically with other groups in the region as a member of the Open Wing Alliance. The group will use this grant to create resources for farmers and the public to raise awareness of the growth of industrialized farming in the region and conduct corporate outreach to secure cage-free commitments.
  • Animal Ask ($15,000): Completing focused research to assist the farmed animal welfare movement with the prioritization of their welfare campaigns.
    • Nonprofits spend thousands of hours and millions of dollars planning and implementing campaigns formed around specific welfare asks. It’s important for animal advocacy organizations to develop well-researched asks that strike the right balance between maximally helping animals and having a reasonable probability of success. With this grant, Animal Ask will continue its work of producing reports on optimizing welfare asks for mission-aligned organizations.

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Cameron Semper ($40,000): Research funding to explore biosynthetic alternatives for the production of carmine.

I worry that this might increase rather than decrease animal suffering. Here is my old comment on it:

I just wanted to inform that I looked into the possibility of doing public campaigns against carmine and decided that it would not be a good idea. The main source of suffering in carmine production seems to be due to farmers adding many cochineal juveniles that suffer from natural deaths early in their life, just as they would in uncontrolled wild populations. However, around 80% of carmine is wild-harvested and I found out that they actually harvest pregnant females before they lay most of their eggs. Hence, wild harvesting prevents the very same type of suffering that farming introduces. And I think it prevents more suffering because the scale is bigger. I am not totally sure about all this, it wasn't easy to find reliable information about the industry, but based on what I found I decided to not look any deeper. I also didn't manage to come up with any way to decrease the number of farmed cochineals but not wild-harvested cochineals. If someone wanted to look into this industry deeper, please contact me and I can share sources that I found.

Interesting point and thanks for raising, Saulius. :)

That specific grant actually hasn’t been made yet. Though we approved of it, I believe it’s waiting on the university to finalize something before the funds are allocated. So, I am going to strike it from the list of grants at the top of the report (I was meant to do this before but forgot to do this even though I removed it from the paragraphs of the payout report, my apologies).

To further address your point though, I think the counterfactuals here are tricky to think about and I wouldn’t confidently claim that wild harvesting prevents more suffering than it causes. Would be keen for folks to think about both of those more! 

In terms of the quick case for the grant, I think it is more exploratory and probably helpful information to have in case there are significant increases in farmed carmine production in the future. Particularly, I thought that for carmine, it was like the case for wild-caught fish. As in, demand currently outstripes finite supply, so fluctuations in demand therefore mightn't impact current supply much.  E.g.:

"However, demand is rising and because the supply is finite - it is difficult for Peruvian farmers to substantially boost supplies - the price has soared in recent years.

Back in 2013 Peru's exports of carmine totalled 531 tonnes, which was worth $22m. So over the past four years, the price per tonne has risen by 73%." (link)

Further to that, occasionally, I think there are big spikes in price when exogenous events constrain supply. (link

And, if current demand were to sustain or increase it seems like a marginal increase in industry would come from the farmed side. E.g., 

“High demand is fuelling the search for innovative production techniques in order to move away from dependence on the prickly pear, which carries a number of limitations.” (link)

““Habitat for cacti is limited, growth of both host and parasite are slow, and extraction procedures are woefully inefficient,” Dapson says. “Improvements in extraction and purification have been made, but they don’t address the core problem, which is production of the insects.”” (link)

So, exploring alternatives now could more so contribute to reductions on the expansion on the farmed side in the future. Perhaps it, therefore, isn’t too dependent on views around whether wild harvesting prevents more suffering than it causes.

 I think the counterfactuals here are tricky to think about and I wouldn’t confidently claim that wild harvesting prevents more suffering than it causes.

I totally agree, this is all very speculative.

And, if current demand were to sustain or increase it seems like a marginal increase in industry would come from the farmed side. E.g., 

This makes sense and substantially increases my probability that the grant is net-positive.

One thing to think about here is whether to make the research public. If it’s public, I’d still worry about it causing more suffering than it prevents because we don’t know how it might impact the supply and what will be the future of carmine. But if it’s not public, then I’m not sure how the research would make an impact. I imagine that it would be public because it’s by a university. I would consider first commissioning an economic analysis of how synthetic carmine would alter farmed and wild-caught quantities.

Your comment makes sense for being wary of replacing farmed carmine with wild carmine.

Do you really mean to say that biosynthetic alternative exploration increases wild carmine harm though?

It took me a few rereads to understand this, but I think the claim is that wild-harvested carmine lead net negative lives because of premature death. Thus, because biosynthetic alternative exploration reduces wild-harvested cochineals, this will increase the total number of cochineals and be net negative.

yes, what Linch said is correct in terms of my reasoning. I think that collecting pregnant females from the wild decreases the number of cochineals who die young, but I imagine that it doesn't decrease long-term cochineal populations much, otherwise it would be unsustainable. It took me a long time to get my head around all this and I'm still unsure about a lot of stuff, due to a lack of information and it being a bit confusing.

It's possible it could keep populations at a lower average size without being unsustainable. With standard simple fishery models (Gordon-Schaefer models, no predators besides humans), there are actually equilibria at every population size below the "natural" one, corresponding to each fixed harvest rate (share of population caught per period). Any (relative) harvest rate per period less than 100% can be sustainable long term if fixed, but not every absolute catch number below the natural population size can be sustainable long term if fixed.

The maximum sustainable yield for fisheries occurs with the population being at or under half of the natural population. I think well-managed fisheries (with quotas) are in fact at around half their natural populations, setting natural fluctuations aside. https://ourworldindata.org/fish-and-overfishing#what-does-sustainable-fishing-mean