Ramping Up: The Bigger Picture Behind the Schmidts' Gift for Sustainable Fisheries

We've been writing lately about the growing environmental philanthropy of Google's Eric Schmidt and his wife Wendy. With a $9 billion fortune, a professional foundation, and a deep commitment to environmental issues, this is a couple to watch closely. They're capable of very big gifts and we're betting we'll be seeing more of those.

Related - Environmentalists: Four Reasons You Need to Know about the Schmidts

As with a lot of billionaires these days, the Schmidts are deeply worried about the oceans, and this concern has helped structure their giving, with serious money going into the Schmidt Ocean Institute. Clearly, there's enough wealth here, and enough passion, to ensure that money gets to other ventures, too.

A case in point: The Schmidts just made a major investment in marine conservation with a $10 million gift to Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch.

The program, which issues grades for fish and fisheries based on their sustainability, aims to influence conscientious shoppers and retailers, thereby putting pressure on fishermen and policymakers to adopt sustainable fishing practices. The aquarium, which has long been a leading research and advocacy institution for sustainable fisheries, calls the gift “transformative,” and plans to use the money to help expand the program internationally, working with foreign governments interested in creating sustainable seafood standards.

Like much of the couple’s giving, the gift appears to be driven by Wendy Schmidt, who is a diver and sailor, and has made marine conservation a priority on the couple’s list of philanthropic causes. Her passion and hands-on involvement gave the Schmidt Family Foundation its mission of pushing for the development of renewable energy and the wise use of natural resources, and to the 2009 founding of the Schmidt Ocean Institute. There are also reports that later this year they will launch the Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE, a $2 million competition aimed at measuring and tackling the problem of ocean acidification.

"Eric and I are delighted to provide the resources that will allow the Seafood Watch program to expand internationally, and help ensure that fisheries across the world have access to the kind of information that will allow them to employ practices that protect the health of our oceans," Wendy said about the gift.

As we've said, the Schmidts have started to ramp up their giving in recent years; their foundation broke $20 million in giving for the first time in 2012, and now holds assets of over $400 million. With $12 million in giving already announced this year, grants to organizations that focus on marine conservation and sustainability are only seem to be getting bigger, and more frequent.