The Pew Charitable Trusts derives its name from its founders, the Pew family, which made their money in the oil and the military ship building industries. Originally, there were seven separate trusts that were created by different members of the family after World War II to carry out, as a matter of principle, philanthropic work below radar. But Pew began changing its ethos in the final two decades of the 20th century. Most notably in 1990, when Pew appointed Joshua Reichert, a man who, in Pew’s words, ‘was known for his willingness to incur significant risk, and pursue bold strategies,’ to lead its environment and oceans programme work.
For example, in 1994 Reichert established and financed the National Environmental Trust (NET), to educate the public about global warming. Then in 2007, he initiated the merger of NET with Pew to create what the press release called the new ‘green team’ under his leadership. And in 2008 he founded and funded the militant campaigning group Oceana, with a particular emphasis on creating vast and numerous marine protection zones which exclude fishing vessels and other industrial activities.
With many billions of dollars in assets, Pew has always been the most influential US-based NGO attending CITES’s meetings (second only to WWF). In 2009 Reichert upped the stakes by appointing a former Chief of the U.S. CITES Scientific Authority as his Director of International Environmental Policy. In her new role with Pew (2009 – 2013), Sue Lieberman, whose previous job was Director of WWF’s Global Species Programme (2001-2009), made confrontation her goal.
For example, at CITES’ CoP-16, in 2013, she completely abandoned Pew’s self-effacing tradition. Courting sensational media headlines, she accused a bloc vote of East Asian countries of wanting to catch sharks for their fins ‘without any regulations’. She then polarized the debate still further by alleging that East Asian countries were prepared to ‘wipe out these species’ in return for ‘short term benefits’.
Ahead of CoP-18 in Geneva, 2019, Pew reported that every year as many as ‘273 million sharks are killed by commercial fisheries’. As a consequence, it claimed, ‘shark populations have suffered declines worldwide’. Pew does not ask how, if the annual catch rate is around 270 million sharks, this statement is compatible with its other core claim. Namely that, ‘half of shark species [the ones considered most commercially exploitable] and their relatives [sic] assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature are categorized [correctly] as Threatened or Near Threatened with extinction’.
Susan K. Urahn, president and chief executive officer
Board of Directors chaired by Robert H. Campbell.
According to Pew’s audited financial report, its annual revenue in year ending June 2019 was USD373,917,307. Total expenses were USD341,274,842, of which, according to form 990, salaries accounted for USD128,269,422.