HELP IMPROVE THE LIVES OF BILLIONS OF FISH
We work to improve the lives of farmed fishes by researching, testing, and then implementing high-impact welfare improvements, particularly in high-production informal economies like India. Our ultimate goal is improving the lives of billions of farmed fishes—your support is a fundamental part of achieving that impact.
To learn more, see our FAQ below.
HOW TO DONATE
For donations of $1,000 or more, or to make a tax-deductible donation in the UK, India, or the Netherlands, see below.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Click on a question to directly jump to its answer.
MISSION & OPERATIONS
What is your current funding gap?
As of November 2023, our funding gap is $650,000, which is most of our budget for 2024.
We currently raise money on an annual funding cycle, although as our certainty grows in our programming over the coming years we hope to shift to a more traditional multi-year cycle. Because money that is not donated to FWI would likely otherwise go to other high-impact organizations, we are mindful about only raising the money we need.
How does FWI spend its money?
In 2024, our planned spending breakdown is roughly the following:
42% on R&D to investigate and test new welfare improvements and programs in India.
18% on implementing and improving our main program in India, the Alliance For Responsible Aquaculture.
7% on policy and stakeholder work in India, primarily for the purpose of gaining broader and government support for our programming.
33% on non-program specific staff and administrative costs, such as leadership, operations, and communications personnel, and fees to our service contractor in India.
What has been your impact so far?
We currently estimate that we have improved the lives of over 1 million farmed fishes, although the magnitude at which we improved their lives is still somewhat unclear. See our Global Impact page for more information.
We also believe that we’ve built important foundations and set important precedents for future fish welfare work—see more below.
How exactly do you help fishes?
In our main country of operation, India, and in our main program there, the Alliance For Responsible Aquaculture, the welfare improvements we are currently implementing are stocking density caps and water quality corrective actions.
In practice, this means fishes are helped by one of the following mechanisms at our partner farms:
The farmer reduces stocking densities from what they would counterfactually have been, making a farm less crowded for the fishes (less common).
We detect poor water quality at the farm in one of our regular monitoring visits, we provide the farmer a corrective action to implement, and then our follow-up measurements indicate that conditions have significantly (and counterfactually) improved (more common).
Note that we consider all fishes helped on a case-by-case basis. Fishes are not automatically helped—or considered as such—just when a farm enrolls in our programming. For more information on this, see our Global Impact page.
We are also investing heavily now in R&D to determine improved interventions for helping these animals.
Why would farmers voluntarily make these changes?
There are a couple factors that lead farmers to want to make changes beneficial to fish welfare:
Free water-quality monitoring: We provide free-of-cost water-quality monitoring to farmers participating in our Alliance For Responsible Aquaculture.
Economic benefit: The practices we are currently recommending (improved water quality and capped stocking densities) have some benefits for farmers: farmers understand better than anyone that improved water quality leads to fewer diseases and lower mortality rates. We believe that stocking density reductions lead to a more stable operation for farmers— fewer fishes, feed, and antimicrobials are needed (lowering expenses), less labor is needed, and farms are less likely to experience catastrophic disease outbreaks and mortalities, thus mitigating two issues that currently plague Indian aquaculture.
Supportive field staff: Our ground team live and work in the same or nearby communities as the farmers, and build trust with them. Some of our staff are from the same communities as the farmers. Our team is sometimes the only support these farmers receive.
Pride in doing the right thing: Our experience has shown us that Indian farmers take pride in their professions and ways of life, and are held in high regard in Indian culture. Many thus take pride in doing the right thing for animals and for society, and are interested in adopting best practices.
Is FWI primarily a research or an implementation charity?
As you can see from our budget breakdown above, we are currently investing the majority of our programmatic resources into research. This is because we have come to believe that we can identify more impactful and cost-effective programs than we are currently undertaking.
The core of FWI though, as we announced in the first public talk we ever gave, has always remained the same: our focus is to implement impactful programs for farmed fishes. This is partly because of what we believe our long-term comparative advantage to be, and also partly because we are generally somewhat skeptical of theories of change that involve publishing research in the hope that some implementing organizations will later use it to improve their programming.
What has changed here is that we now feel the need to do much more research than we initially thought. We have thus updated our capacity accordingly, for instance by working with experts in fish welfare (see Marco) and evidence-based program design (see Paul). Overall, we believe FWI is best viewed as an implementation charity that happens to be in a primarily research stage right now.
We hope and expect to transition to focusing the majority of our resources to the implementation of our findings over the coming 2–3 years (though it is worth noting that we’ve broadly believed the same thing for the past 4 years now).
Does FWI operate outside of India?
We mostly focus our efforts on just operating bigger projects in a few contexts as opposed to smaller projects across many contexts. However, we do opportunistically consider particularly impactful opportunities.
Where is FWI’s headquarters located?
That depends on what you mean by headquarters:
Our first entity, and the entity that receives most of our funding, is registered in the US, but we have no office there and only one US staff member.
Most of our staff are Indian, and much of our work takes place in India. There, we have several small offices in our various program sites (run primarily via our service contractor in India).
Is FWI a registered charity?
Yes, we have registered organizations in both the US and India.
In the US, Fish Welfare Initiative is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization (#85-2065536). Your donation is tax-deductible in the US to the extent allowable by law.
In India, Fish Welfare Initiative India Foundation is registered under Section 8 of the Companies Act. Your donation is also tax-deductible in India to the extent allowable by law.
How cost-effective is a donation to FWI?
FWI is currently helping fishes around the order of magnitude of 1 fish helped per dollar. You can learn more about this calculation on our Global Impact page.
There’s a few reasons not to read too much into this though:
We are currently investing heavily in R&D to significantly improve our programming and thus cost effectiveness, so we expect this estimate to change significantly over the coming years.
This estimate doesn’t include the degree to which each individual fish is helped (though noting that this is a problem almost universally across animal advocacy).
We believe organizations can provide other value that is not captured in cost-effectiveness estimates. For instance, we believe that one of the most important outcomes that FWI has achieved is the precedent it has set for improving fish welfare in regions where this had never been done before.
What would a marginal donation of $50 fund?
All donations we receive go into our general operating fund, which is used to fund all of the expenses outlined in our budget. For this reason, rather than thinking about one specific outcome that an additional donation would fund, we think it’s more accurate to think of a small donation as funding a corresponding percent of our annual budget and all the outcomes we intend to achieve with it.
It might also be helpful to think about a marginal donation as funding a certain amount of fishes helped in expectation, as per the overall cost effectiveness of the organization. So for instance, a $50 donation to FWI in expectation improves the lives of roughly about 50 fishes.
If you’re interested in what a donation would cover were it directly restricted to our implementation programs, a $50 donation could cover—
Visits to 11 farms once to analyze water quality and provide corrective actions (if needed).
11% of the cost of all equipment for one Data Collector (who can cover five farms per day).
Who else has supported FWI?
As of December 2022, FWI has been the recipient of five grants from the Effective Altruism Funds. In September 2022, FWI was awarded a $250,000 two-year grant from Open Philanthropy. We were also especially honored to be the recipient of part of the $1 million Berggruen Prize that ethicist Peter Singer received and subsequently gave away; Singer’s ideas inspired FWI’s work perhaps more than those of any other individual. Additionally, FWI is proud to be recommended by Animal Charity Evaluators as a Standout Charity.
We are also honored to have been the recipient of individual donations from over 300 individual people to date.
What are the best arguments for donating to FWI?
The following are some arguments in favor of donating to FWI, roughly in descending order of our view of their significance:
FWI’s potential for impact: The scope of the problem we face is huge: billions of farmed fishes live in our countries of operation alone, their living conditions are often very poor, and virtually nothing has been done to address these issues so far. Furthermore, the fact that we have already had promising inroads with farmers and other key stakeholders in these contexts suggests that we are able to gain traction on these problems. Without any obvious limiting factors here then, we believe that, once at scale, our programming does have the potential to improve the lives of hundreds of millions, or even a billion, fishes.
FWI’s current impact: We currently estimate that we’ve improved the lives of over 1 million fishes. This makes FWI one of the most promising avenues in the world to reduce farmed fish suffering, and likely the most promising avenue in the world to reduce the suffering of farmed Indian major carp, one of the largest and most neglected species groups of farmed fishes.
Tackling some of the animal movement’s hardest questions: If we are ever going to bring about a world that is truly humane, we will need to focus on the more neglected groups in animal farming, particularly including farmed fishes and animals farmed in informal economies. We believe that FWI’s work is demonstrating some avenues of helping these groups, and will thus enable other organizations to work more effectively on them. For instance, some of the lessons we learned in implementing our own farmer-centric work later inspired the model that Shrimp Welfare Project is pursuing in their Sustainable Shrimp Farmers of India.
Movement building in Asia: Almost 90% of farmed fishes, as well as the majority of farmed terrestrial animals, are in Asia. We thus believe it is critical to launch movements in Asian countries to address the suffering facing these animals, and to expand the animal movement by bringing in new people. We are proud to have hired a local team of about 17 full-time equivalent staff in India as well as contractors in China and the Philippines. We are also proud that most of these people did not work in animal protection previously, and are now more likely to have careers helping animals even after they leave FWI.
What are the best arguments against donating to FWI?
While we think a donation to FWI is one of the more marginally impactful uses of money, it’s not the right fit for all donors. Here’s some reasons, again in descending order of significance, as to why you may not choose to donate to FWI:
Experimental, unprecedented nature of work: Even though we are four years into working, FWI is still at the moment primarily in an explore/research stage. The welfare improvements we’re making and seeking to make have never before been made at the scale or in the contexts where we intend to make them—and the evidence base on how to make such welfare improvements is sparse at best. All these facts have contributed to the frequent pivots we’ve made, and the challenges our current model in India faces.
We are heavily investing in R&D this year to determine improved, evidence-based interventions to run in India, which will hopefully enable us to shift more to an implementation phase. However, until we have implemented and evaluated these interventions, we believe a donation to FWI should be regarded as enabling moderate but somewhat uncertain impact right now, and (hopefully) enabling much greater and more certain impact in the future.
Possibly supporting industry intensification: It is possible that by supporting farmers in addressing water quality and disease issues, we enable more farmers to get into the business and/or to make their farms more intensive. Note though that our team has considered this issue in medium depth and do not find it particularly compelling right now, in part because our stocking density caps are designed to prevent intensification. However, we believe it is still a reasonable concern one can have. To learn more about our thoughts here, contact us.
We do not think the belief that fishes lack the ability to feel pain is a good argument against donating to FWI, as there is significant and increasing evidence and consensus that fishes do feel pain like most other vertebrates.
Improve the lives of billions of fishes? Is that even possible?
We dream big, but yes, we do think so. This is partly a testament to the vast scope of aquaculture: smaller farms hold thousands of fishes, while the largest ones hold over a million. Therefore, with fishes, even working at just the farm level means that you can impact the lives of a massive number of individuals. Although we currently impact only one fish per dollar, we intend to find more cost-effective ways of working in the future, allowing us to reach thousands or tens of thousands of farms (analogously, see the impact of cage-free corporate advocacy for chickens). Working in this way, over the next 5–10 years we hope and expect to surpass over a billion fish helped by scaling across India and across other regions of Asia.
I would like to make a tax-deductible donation in a country that is not the US. How do I do that?
Currently, donations to Fish Welfare Initiative may only be tax-deductible in the US, UK, the Netherlands, and India. For your donation to be tax-deductible in the UK or the Netherlands, you will need to donate through the Giving What We Can.
Donors in other countries are still able to donate in the currency of their choice via our donation portal above.
To make a donation from India, contact us. As they allow us to save in admin fees from moving money overseas, donations from Indian citizens are particularly appreciated!
I donated to FWI during a donation match period. Was my donation matched?
FWI's latest donation match ran between December 16 and 31, 2022, and included up to $10,000 in matching funds. Matching funds ran out on December 24th—all donations received between December 16 and December 23rd were matched 100%; all donations received on December 24th were matched either 100% or partially; and all donations received after December 24th were not matched. The match applies to all mediums through which people donate to FWI, including our website donation page, via the EA Funds, direct bank deposits, and cash donations.
FWI only partakes in true matches. This means that any money left over at the conclusion of the matching period will not be given to FWI.
I’m interested in making a donation of $1,000 or more to FWI. What should I do?
You should email us so that we can ensure that FWI is a good organizational fit for you and that if so, you make your donation via the most efficient avenue. This is in part to avoid the processing fees (~4% if done via our website) of our donation processing platform.
I would like to mail a check. How should I do that?
Checks should be mailed to the following address:
Fish Welfare Initiative
3123 Butterfly Dr
Normal, IL 61761
Which other organizations should I support?
Our team members are proud to support the work of ACE-recommended and GiveWell-recommended organizations, and we encourage you to do the same. Other organizations that our team members individually support include Family Empowerment Media, Development Media International, Lead Exposure Elimination Project, GiveDirectly, and Clean Energy Innovation program. We believe in the impact of these organizations and aim to replicate their successes.
Thank you for helping us reduce fish suffering!