I was the TED Prize director for almost a decade. There were so many aspects of the job that I loved, but most remarkable was the opportunity to collaborate time and again with some of the world's most notable artists, policy leaders, environmentalists and scientists.
One TED Prize winner, Dr. Sylvia Earle, made a notable impact on my life. Her wish was to bring "knowledge of our oceans to a wide audience and galvanize support for marine protected areas." To achieve this, we launched a five-day mini TED conference called "Mission Blue" aboard a National Geographic ship in the Galapagos Islands, raising awareness along with $17 million for seven ocean conservation initiatives.
It's hard to describe the transformative effect of being on a boat surrounded by the world's foremost oceanographers, scientists, marine biologists, activists and artists. In a matter of days, I became deeply committed to protecting the future of our oceans, and for me this meant changing how we fish for and consume seafood.
My brilliant co-founder Mike Velings (also my husband) and I spent the last two-plus years launching Aqua-Spark, an investment fund focused on sustainable aquaculture and ocean technologies. We met aboard Mission Blue, and together we developed this fund to promote healthier oceans and sustainably provide fish and seafood to people around the world.
The basic math is terrifying. If we continue to fish at the current rate, by 2050 our oceans will become virtual deserts. Yet demand for food is growing along with the world's population, meaning wild fisheries could meet their end even sooner. Today's news that Bloomberg Philanthropies will grant $53 million to combat chronic overfishing highlights the magnitude of the challenge. A critical component of tackling this must be strong and swift growth of sustainable aquaculture (fish and seafood farms).
Aqua-Spark seeks to invest in companies that will achieve and advance aquaculture without causing environmental harm -- from innovative feed and antibiotic monitoring to new distribution technologies or anything that can help us grow and provide fish in a sustainable manner. In this, there are exciting business opportunities. As more people consume seafood, we have the power to positively shape the industry while allowing our oceans to recover. In this case, doing good also makes for sound financial opportunities.
We have already raised significant funds and will announce the first investees this spring. This is just the first part of the story, so stay tuned. There is so much more to come.