Our History

NAMA History

NAMA was born in 1995 because, at the time, there was a critical mass of people in New England who believed there had to be a better approach to protect our oceans and manage marine resources. The idea was simple: gather diverse fishery stakeholders together to design a new approach to managing fisheries, one that would empower local fishermen and coastal communities to work effectively with government agencies and environmental groups to identify solutions to the ocean’s ecological challenges without losing the fishing culture and communities in the process.

A small group of fishermen and fishing community advocates began exploring an alternative management structure — the decentralized governance model that transformed BankAmericard from a failing franchise in the 1960's into VISA, a financial services company. The brain behind it all is Mr. Dee Hock, VISA's founder and CEO Emeritus. In 1997, NAMA incorporated as an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to pursuing community based management to achieve its purpose of restoring and enhancing an enduring marine system supporting a healthy diversity and an abundance of marine life and human uses through a self-organizing and self-governing organization.

With Captain Craig Pendleton at the helm and the help of the founding board members, NAMA set out on a decade-long pursuit of collaborative research and visioning toward realizing community and ecosystem based management. From the start, NAMA has supported diversity in its participants, increased accountability and values-based decision-making. We advocate for an organizational structure that allows one voice to emerge from many, and a process that calls for managing the resource on a more localized level, much as a school board makes decisions for one community and not the entire eastern seaboard.

In late 2007, NAMA went through a transition that led to the hiring of our new director, Niaz Dorry in early 2008. We immediately set out on a strategic plan to decide the next phase of our organization’s work.

Fishermen have always been at the core of our work and innovation has always been an aspiration. Our 2008 evaluation told us that we needed a more effective approach to organizing fishermen and the need to do work that was unique to NAMA in order to build on the strong foundation laid by Craig and company. Two major things emerged:

  1. We decided to do work through the food system lens because we knew it would be a game changer and no other organization was approaching fisheries work through the food system lens.

  2. We adopted a new organizing model that uses a decentralized collaborative approach, convening the Fish Locally Collaborative (FLC). This approach was being used by friends at the Coming Clean Collaborative at the time with a great success in bringing a diverse, cross-section of communities and allies working on the front lines of eliminating persistent pollutants.

Our 2008 plan became our blueprint. It determined who we work with, who we don’t work with, strategies for doing the work, and who can fund the work. We are excited that we can count the successes that were born out of that plan, and humbled by the failures we experienced along the way. What we have learned is that when we employ a thoughtful process to determine our strategic direction, we are capable of dreaming big, delivering on our promises, and leading a strategy for change even while weathering major storms.

In mid-2015 we set out on a new strategic plan, which was completed in July 2016. This new plan builds on the founding principles of NAMA, celebrate the victories and challenges of our 2008 strategic plan, and paves the way for us to fuel a real RevolOcean.

We thank everyone who has helped NAMA and our work over the past 20 years, including our staff, dedicated board of trustees, the fishermen who guide us, and the communities that embrace us.

As always, we invite your perspective, input and participation as we continue our pursuit toward healthy marine ecosystems.