SeaWeb Seafood Summit – Putting social issues on the agenda

Posted by Tom Pickerell, Technical Director on 20 February 2015

Around 500 sea-foodies from retail, food service, restaurant, catching and farming sectors, Governments and NGOs attended the 11th Seafood Summit in New Orleans last week. This was the first time the Summit had returned to the USA since San Diego in 2009 and understandably the majority were from the USA but attendees came from across the world, with a strong UK presence.

This Summit was the first to be delivered in association with Diversified Communications and there was definitely a more commercial approach and we understand this will result in the Summit becoming annual once again. The last one was Hong Kong in September 2012 but the next summit will be 1st-3rd February 2016 in Malta.

On arrival at the Summit the Seafish Responsible Fishing Scheme (RFS) display in the lobby was unmissable. The photos below don't do the sheer scale justice. The purpose of these displays was to introduce the attendees to the RFS and highlight the lead role the UK has taken in ethics in seafood.

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Each of us received positive feedback on the display and it really cemented Seafish's presence at the Summit.

The Summit proper began with a keynote talk from Dr Kathryn Sullivan, Administrator of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and, impressively, a former astronaut. Dr Sullivan's talk was very US-centric and in calling NOAA "the U.S. environmental intelligence agency" she sent a somewhat alarming message.

The upshot of the keynote was that aquaculture offers huge potential for the US; "we are exporting jobs". Of course this very much reflects the situation in Europe and we share the same challenges and opportunities.

One of the most engaging sessions was the "Preventing Human Rights Abuses in the Seafood Supply Chain" led by US NGO FishWise. Our own Libby Woodhatch was a panellist and following a hard-hitting film from the Environmental Justice Foundation, Libby explained how the UK industry had developed the revised RFS to allow responsible fishers to demonstrate their adherence to best practice and provide assurances to the supply chain.

This session took place in the full hall and was well attended and there were plenty of questions. It's certainly the next 'big' issue facing the industry and I'm delighted that Seafish offered a tangible solution.

 

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We further reinforced the utility of RFS at a reception where we gave the first public showing of the new RFS animation. The reception was well-attended and there is considerable interest in the RFS from around the world, particularly New Zealand.

Another reason Seafish attended the Summit was that Project:Inshore  was a finalist in the Seafood Champion Awards under the 'Innovation' category. The awards ceremony was a grand event with a procession to the venue from the Summit hotel led by a traditional New Orleans 'second line' parade (brass jazz). As we marched along the roads the New Orleans police stopped the traffic from their Harley Davidsons - all very surreal.

The award winners were:

Leadership - Andrew Jackson, International Fishmeal and Fish Oil Organisation (IFFO) for working with stakeholders toward creating a uniform standard and encouraging responsible production of fishmeal and fish oil, often used as feed in aquaculture.

Innovation - Anova Food, LLC: Fishing & Living Initiative, for advancing sustainable fisheries by incorporating community development and the wellbeing of fishers in their work to achieve environmental goals.

Vision - TJ Tate, for her work as Sustainability Director for Gulf Wild, a brand of responsibly-caught seafood providing traceability and accountability to each reef fish landed.

Advocacy - shared between two winners; Ayumu Katano, Japanese fisheries expert, author and educator, and the Environmental Justice Foundation.

Grand Champion Award - Bill DiMento, Corporate Director of Sustainability at High Liner Foods, Inc. for his work that stretched across all four categories.

Project:Inshore, therefore, did not win but we are eager to try again with RFS next year.

 

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