<p>Photo: Andrea Puggioni/Flickr Creative Commons</p>

Photo: Andrea Puggioni/Flickr Creative Commons

Seafood Summit blog: EU hailed as leader in the IUU fight

Catch all the news from the 2016 Seaweb Seafood Summit in Malta.

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Wednesday, Feb. 3, 4.11 p.m. CET

EU commissioner: 'We need to stop talking about individual fisheries'

Karmenu Vella, EU commissioner for Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, mentioned three core tasks of the EU commission in fishing regulation:

1. International coordination: “It is good to know that we are in the lead of this, we had very good dialogues, but that is not enough, we need to cooperate more,” Vella said, “it is wrong to talk about EU fisheries, US fisheries, or Japan fisheries, we have one global fishery and we need global solutions.”

2. Legal arena: “We are putting in our way forward, we want to simplify and modernize the implementation of the regulation, we need to improve cooperation even between EU member states, and we need to move to a more electronic system for better traceability.”

3. Economics of fisheries: “We need to bring to our policies the economic perspective as well, sustainability is about biological, environmental and economic impact. These approaches are independent on each other, and our fight against IUU doesn’t only come from environmental need, but also from an economical need.”

“My plea is that we should do more in the international field, let’s not forget that IUU accounts at least for 15 percent of global catches, while the EU’s total catch accounts for 5 percent of global landings, it would mean if we eliminated IUU, we would only eliminate a 15 percent of the 5 percent of the global resources. That is not enough,” he said.

--Lola Navarro

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Wednesday, Feb. 3, 4.04 p.m. CET

The true cost of IUU

The negative impact of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is staggering, and a coalition between the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), Oceana, The Pew Charitable Trust and WWF boiled it down to the facts in a new report released today.

Global losses from IUU fishing are estimated to be between $10 billion (€9.1 billion) and $23.5 billion (€21.3 billion) per year.

Between 11 and 26 billion metric tons of fish are caught illegally per year.

In 2005, the European Union imported nearly €14 billion of fisheries products. Conservative estimates valued IUU catches imported into the EU in the same year at 500,000 metric tons or €1.1 billion.

IUU fishing represents a major loss of revenue, particularly to some of the poorest countries in the world where dependency on fisheries for food, livelihoods and revenues is high. For example, it is estimated to cost West Africa $1.3 billion a year.

Estimates suggest that global IUU catches correspond to between 13 and 31 percent of reported fisheries production. In some regions this figure can be as high as 40 percent. ​

-- Elisabeth Fischer

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Wednesday, Feb. 3, 3.44 p.m. CET

Battling IUU: 'Europe at its best'

Steve Trent, executive director at the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), welcomed the European Union's worked on tackling IUU, saying the work done by the commission "is Europe at its best, it's genuine leadership.

"What the commission has done here has probably been the single most important driving force [in tackling illegal fishing] in the last decade," he said.

But there is always room for improvement, he said.

Trent called for the adoption of a digital catch certificate system. "The paper-based system is simply not fit for purpose," he said.

Married with a standardized risk assessment tool this would "transform" the international fight against IUU, he said.

In addition, the EU has to do a better job at monitoring its own fleet both inside and outside EU waters to get a truly transparent and robust picture.

"There are other elements of the regulation i think could be improved," Trent said. "The biggest and perhaps most complicated is perhaps standardizing it across the European member states. There are varied degrees of work, varied approaches in different member states. There needs to be harmonization."

Then, he told the audience and Commissioner Karmenu Vella, the EU can have "very, very good regulation."

Vella agreed with Trent, but said harmonization is a difficult one.

"In the Euorpean Union we have standardized legislation but then we 28 different member states moving at different speeds," he said.

"When it comes to fishing it gets even more complicated, every state is subdivided into different regions. It’s a little bit more difficult. That’s where I think where we’ll have to be a bit more flexible but without losing our standard."

Vella also said an IT-based approach is the next step and efforts are underway to get a better grip on monitoring the EU fleet.

-- Elisabeth Fischer ​

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Wednesday, Feb. 3, 3.34 p.m. CET

Room for improvement in the EU's IUU card system

While the EU's carding system is positive when it comes to tackling IUU fishing, "the process is not entirely clear,” Javier Garat, president of Europeche, told the EU Commissioner for Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Karmenu Vella at the closing panel of the Seaweb Seafood Summit.

“More transparency from the European Commission side would be necessary to know what is going on between the different countries. There is massive room for improvement,” he said.

The commissioner responded to Garat, partly agreeing to the claims.

“To a certain point I do agree that the industry needs to know what is going on, but these processes take a long time, and there are confidentiality policies as well,” Vella said.

“In terms of yellow carding, I don’t think the industry should know about it as it is not directly affected unless the red card is issued,” he insisted.

Vella also responded to Garat’s call that it is unclear if the same criteria is applied when carding small and big countries.

“I don’t think there is a different approach between big and small countries, it is logic that an agreement with small countries is reached faster, but that doesn’t mean that different criteria are applied,” he said.

“Thailand is a very big country and trading between the country and the EU is very large, it is a difficult situation,” Vella said.

--Lola Navarro

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Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2.45 p.m. CET

It's all about trust -- but how do you build it?

Sustainability efforts are undoubtedly underway across fishing and aquaculture across the world -- but consumer knowledge about these projects is somewhat lagging behind.

In a lively debate on Wednesday afternoon, panelists and the audience agreed that more needs to be done to get the "good stories" out there.

"What we need is trust. It’s about communication, and putting out the good stories," said Richard Stavis, CEO and director of sales at Stavis Seafood.

"That’s something this industry doesn’t do. We don’t capture our good stories and communicate them [to consumers]."

Mark Palicki, vice president of marketing at Fortune Fish & Gourmet, mentioned the the u-turn the "incredible egg" has made in the United States.

Years ago "everyone in America thought eggs were bad" but within a few years that completely changed, he said. "How do we do that for seafood?" he asked.

Scott Nichols, CEO of consultancy Foods’ Future, and founder and former managing director at Verlasso, said one "really useful" tool for aquaculture would be to stand up and admit that mistakes have been made in the past.

"But we have improved," he said. "We need to get beyond those mistakes."

Involving NGOs and green groups would be one way to reach consumers, he said. "They’ve been extremely helpful pointing out mistakes but now they need to engage with consumers and tell them, yes the industry has improved now."

Peter Hajipieris, group director for corporate social responsibility at Iglo Group owner Nomad Foods, and board member at UK industry body Seafish, the first thing the industry needs to do is to stop striving for perfection.

"There is no perfection, I can tell you that. There’s only a minimum responsibility," he said, suggesting ditching "sustainability" for "responsibly sourced."

"We never aim for perfection, we can’t do that. We try and feed consumers responsibly sourced food. That’s all we can do. That utopian vision of perfection doesn’t exist and the consumer doesn’t expect that either," he said.

-- Elisabeth Fischer

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Wednesday, Feb. 3, 1.03 p.m. CET

GSSI concerns

The Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI) achieved its first milestone in October last year with the launch of its Global Benchmark Tool in Vigo, Spain.

While its cause is a "noble" one -- being the "certifiers of certifications" -- there are still a number of questions to be addressed, and that became apparent during a panel Wednesday morning.

Concerns coming from the audience included questions around how it might be promoted to the public, and if it really will clear up some of the confusion in the eco-label jungle for consumers.

Peter Hajipieris, group director for corporate social responsibility at Nomad-owned Iglo Group, who is attending the summit as a board member at Seafish, said promoting the actual achievement of being successfully benchmarked is "not role of the GSSI, it's the role of the certification scheme."

"We can't be a marketing body for certification schemes," he told the audience. "We couldn’t do that and keep our credibility."

Tom Pickerell, technical director at Seafish, agreed, saying the GSSI's role is one of giving additional recognition but not to say "buy or don't buy."

But how then will it help consumers and avoid confusion if it doesn't take on that role?

Hajipieris said it's simple: Retailers will take on that job for consumers, who "trust the supermarkets and the brand."

Pickerell mentioned he doesn't believe that in the United Kingdom consumer confusion is that big. "They go into a retailer and assume that this has been taken care of," he said.

Tania Taranovski, director of sustainable seafood program at New England Aquarium, said no one at GSSI is actually suggesting that the GSSI -- or certification -- is the "magic bullet for seafood sustainability."

"But we have this platform now and we can use it to advance sustainability and incorporate some of the other tools we have," she said. ​

-- Elisabeth Fischer

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Wednesday, Feb. 3, 12.30 p.m. CET

Don't forget the penguins

Around 20 percent of the ecosystem in the Antarctic sustains itself on krill, and although the availability of krill is plenty, concentrated fishing and climate change are contributing largely to the depletion of certain other species.

The main species affected by this -- Adelie penguins.

"Penguins are out for food in the Southern Ocean, and the longer they are out there looking for feed, the more chance they have of getting eaten, and of course if the penguin doesn’t make it back to feed their babies, the baby doesn’t survive either,” said John Hocevar, Ocean Campaign Director, Greenpeace, USA.

Another problem is ice melting in the Antarctic.

"Ice has a very large food resource with it, especially for small krill in the winter, and female krill in the spring,” said Wayne Trivelpiece, seabird researcher, at today's krill debate moderated by Pew.

"Warming is a big deal, a couple of degrees means ice turning into water, and both krill in the spawning phase and small krill find it difficult to make it through the season without this food source”

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) is working to set a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) but the process is slow, and there is another threat as Chinese demand for krill is significantly increasing, and the fleet is planning to expand its krill fishery in the Antarctic.

--Lola Navarro

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Wednesday, Feb. 3, 12.00 p.m. CET

Basic rights are not so basic at sea

Forced labor, child exploitation, no medical checks or medical assistance, discrimination, irregular recruitment, abusive work hours, no right to demonstrate -- all of those are daily realities for many workers at sea, according to Brandt Wagner, head of the transport and maritime unit at the International Labor Office (ILO).

The ILO, unlike other international organizations in the seafood industry, focuses on working conditions for people, and not on fisheries management.

It has created specific standards for the seafood sector leading to an international consensus between organizations, said Wagner.

Through three different approaches -- conventions, recommendations and protocol -- the organization is engaging with different parties to commit to its programs and maintain their standards in the long term, submitting themselves to independent monitoring and audits.

Wagner called for an unanimous voice to speak for the industry, joining the voices of fisheries, trade unions, companies, NGOs, and all stakeholders involved.

"The FAO knows more about fisheries than we ever will, but we know more about child labor, it is as simple as that, that is why we all need to cooperate," he said.

--Lola Navarro

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Wednesday, Feb. 3, 11.37 a.m. CET

FAO: Private sector must contribute to policy decisions

It is not only about funding, but the perspective the private sector can bring to business decisions that makes it an important part of fisheries decisions, said FAO Fisheries Officer Jose Estors.

Estors told his audience how the organization has collaboratively worked with different players to better understand the reality of the industry.​

"It is important that the different stakeholders contribute to a common goal," he said.

“Our aim is to ensure safety at sea for fishers, and raise awareness about these issues. We need the private sector to join us. They see what we see from another perspective. We need their expertise and knowledge, too.”

--Lola Navarro

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Wednesday, Feb. 3, 11.30 a.m. CET

Economic incentives key to sustainability

The way the industry interprets sustainability may be lacking an important factor that could be key when it comes to engaging developing countries.

The socio-economic component is just as important as the environment to achieve sustainability.

"Businesses need to be economically sustainable, too," said Guy Dean, vice president and CSO at Albion Fisheries.

"Going to developing countries and telling them how to fish in order to get certain certifications required in Europe and the US is not the way to stimulate them."

Instead, he said, they need a value proposition, some guidance on how their business can bring more profit and ensure a future for their communities and families.

While forced labor is one of the biggest concerns in the industry, “we need to pay attention to risk mitigation to ensure that our business is in good shape,” he said.

-- Lola Navarro

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Wednesday, Feb. 3, 10.40 a.m. CET

China: It's all about creating awareness

The fledgling sustainable seafood movement in China is facing some serious challenges, Liang Pei, secretary-general at China Chain Store & Franchise Association (CCFA), told delegates Wednesday morning.

While buyers at retailers named food safety and quality as some of their biggest concerns during a recent CCFA survey, traceability and suppliers CSR and compliance are perceived less important.

Challenges for sustainable seafood include the lack of incentive policy for promotions, he said. In addition, the cost of wild-caught seafood and import tax still effect retailers' demand.

There's also still limited supply of sustainable seafood in the market and there is a missing information linkage between global fisheries and suppliers, Pei said.

To create more awareness the CCFA, in cooperation with WWF, created the China Sustainable Retail Roundtable (CSRR) in 2013 in a bid to "lead the market toward sustainability."

The roundtable was established with 13 companies, which together represent ore than 12,000 stores and more than CNY 580 billion ($88 billion/€81 billion) in total retail sales.

It supports retailers with sustainable promotions through purchasing guides and an online database. In addition it aims to encourage and educate consumers toward sustainable seafood.

An Yan, China country director at the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), picked up on what Pei said, telling the audience that it's all about creating awareness in the market.

The MSC is for instance partnering with e-commerce players such as T-Mall to promote sustainable and certified seafood.

The first activity was conducted last month, she said, adding the response was good and sales increased 20 percent for suppliers within only one week.

"But it's not only about increasing sales, it's about increasing awareness," Yan said. ​

-- Elisabeth Fischer

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Wednesday, Feb. 3, 10.25 a.m. CET

There's really no way around China

In terms of seafood's sustainability movement "there's really no way around China," Brian Caoutte, founder and director of global programs at Ocean Outcomes, said this morning while kicking off a panel in China''s future in terms of sustainable seafood processing.

"There's hardly any other country that plays a bigger role than China," he said.

According to Cui He, executive vice president at the China Aquatic Products Processing and Marketing Alliance (CAPPMA), the nation is still the world's largest country of seafood production, trading and consumption.

The yield of aquaculture exceeded wild capture fisheries more than 20 years ago: about 74 percent of the 61.72 million metric tons of seafood produced in 2014 came from aquaculture -- and this could increase to well above 80 percent in the coming years.

More than 7,000 companies are processing about 20 million metric tons of seafood every year.

It's no secret that local consumption is increasing, especially in terms of processed and frozen fish and seafood, he said.

This means China will have to play a bigger role when it comes in the sustainability movement, He said.

Especially the country's attitude and action will be essential for the "global fight against IUU fishing" and the government is "paying more attention to traceability and IUU issues than ever before."

-- Elisabeth Fischer

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Tuesday, Feb. 2 4.45 p.m. CET

Seafood is getting social

Implementing new technologies can be expensive, and that’s why small companies are often stuck with old software. That software is easy to use and pretty much free, but it doesn't give room for improvements.

That's where the This Fish software is coming in. It is thought to help small processing firms to implement affordable and manageable software to track down seafood’s journey from sea to plate.

It is sociable, as it allows consumers to interact and share information, and cheap “a couple hundred dollars,” said Eric Enno Tamm, general manager at This Fish and Ecotrust Canada.

Partnering with other data systems developers, the initiative is trying to keep it simple.

In a bid to "humanize" the industry, the company is also distributing canned salmon with labels that show faces of the fishermen who caught the fish.

“The future of traceability is going to be social,” Tamm said.

-- Lola Navarro

(PS -- IntraFish is social too: Like us on Facebook here and follow our Twitter feed here for more news and updates)

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Tuesday, Feb. 2, 4.24 p.m. CET

Traceability: Perfection is a must

The global industry of tracking and traceability software and hardware has been booming for years but within the seafood industry the trend "is only just beginning to grow," said Dick Jones, executive director at Ocean Outcomes.

"But as an industry we can’t embrace anything less than perfection," he told the audience at this afternoon's traceability and technology panel.

Technologies currently are still developing, as examples given by the first two speakers at the panel showed.

Melissa Garren, chief scientific officer at Pelagic Data Systems, introduced her company's vessel monitoring technology, which collects data from individual boats and fleets, analyzes it and feeds the information back to the operators.

For the future she is hoping for a maximization of interoperability through the integration of multiple types of systems to get a much more global picture on what is happening on the water.

"We’re also thinking of leveraging other types of information acquired in the supply chain to improve transparency," she told the audience.

In addition, there needs to be an integration of all emerging technologies "floating around" to meet the different needs of varying supply chains.

TJ Tate, director of sustainable seafood at the National Aquarium, reiterated that train of thought in her presentation, giving the audience a timeline and thought-process that went into developing the Gulf Wild traceability tag.​

-- Elisabeth Fischer

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Tuesday, Feb. 2, 4.07 p.m. CET

How to fight overcapacity without catch limits?

While there is clearly an overcapacity on bigeye tuna fishing in the Western Central Pacific, imposing catch limits will not work unless fishermen are sufficiently compensated, according to Matthew Owens, director of environmental policy and social responsibility at Tri Marine.

The Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission is highly politicized, and there is an overcapacity with a large number of boats all of them struggling to survive -- so reducing the amount of fish they can catch won’t help, he said.

Additionally, enforcement of catch limits would also bring its own operational constraints.

A total of 300 boats within the purse seine sector fished over 2 million metric tons of bigeye tuna in 2014, a record high; so overcapacity needs to be dealt with, said Owens.

But for the Parties to the Nauru Agreement to agree to a catch limit system there would need to be a strong value proposition, an alternative whereby there are good conservation measures and the fishmen get equal revenues.

"What is that proposal?” he asked.

In terms of fighting overcapacity, there is progress being made, and two of the world’s major brands of tuna have agreed to not buy tuna caught by new vessels -- unless they have replaced old ones -- "this is a good step forward," he said.

-- Lola Navarro

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Tuesday, Feb. 2, 3.45 p.m. CET

Change should come from within

The bycatch problem needs to be addressed if you don’t want it to have an ultimate impact on your target fishery, but there are different ways of doing this.

Steve Gaines, from the University of California talked this afternoon about the possibilities of reducing bycatch, and the most effective ways of doing so.

The most common practices to avoid incidental catches when fishing involve either reducing target catch – and the unavoidable yield costs this entails – or making catch more selective, which often requires the implementation of new gears and technologies, and again, increased costs.

Either way, the change comes from outside.

Gaines suggested that instead change should come from within the fisheries, though.

"There is a variety of ways of doing this, one of them are to individually allocate credits, or quota shares associated to the target, so that you financially incentivize fishermen to be innovative and to contribute to the solution of the problem,” he said.

-- Lola Navarro

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Tuesday, Feb. 2, 3.14 p.m. CET

Japan: 'The situation is critical now'

Wakao Hanaoka, CEO of Seafood Legacy, a platform which is trying to build up the sustainability movement in Japan, agreed with Ana Chang's previous presentation, but said he believes that change started happening in the past years.

"The seafood sustainability movement is about 10 to 20 years behind other markets," he told the audience. "But it doesn't mean there's nothing going on."

In 2008, the country's biggest retailer started selling MSC-certified products, and in 2011 the first traceability elements popped up in the market. It was the same year that Greenpeace started tracking and rating supermarkets, he said.

In 2014, many retailers stopped dealing with endangered eel from Europe and decreased sales of Japanese eel. And some retailers implemented internal policies to stop selling bluefin juveniles.

Aeon has been a leader in that respect, he said, noting the retailer added sustainability to its seafood sourcing policy in 2014.

"There is a movement going on and we want to make this movement keep climbing," Hanaoka said. "But there’s no one else following so far. We are aiming to raise this issue with all other retailers.

"We need a very fast change in Japan now. The situation is critical now," he told the audience.

Yumie Kawashima, product sustainability and responsible practices at Aeon Retail, said one issue is the lack of governmental support.

She called on all Japanese retailers and seafood companies to come together and support the sustainability movement. Only then "we will have enough power" to drive change.

-- Elisabeth Fischer

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Tuesday, Feb. 2, 3.02 p.m. CET

Creating collective change in Japan

Japan is 10 to 20 years behind in terms of seafood sustainability, a panel on demand in Japan heard on Tuesday afternoon.

While it is still one of the biggest seafood consuming nations worldwide, the concept of sustainability hasn't quite caught on, panelists agreed -- and collectively called for action.

But it will be difficult, said Ana Chang, founder and principal researcher at Concept Hatchery.

"Japan is an incredibly seafood-focused country, seafood runs deep in Japan," she said. Even if consumption is declining, it will always be part of the Japanese national identity.

But Japan's fisheries are "in serious trouble" and have been in decline for years. It even goes so far, that 90 percent of what is caught today are juveniles, Chang said.

So why has there been no sustainable seafood movement? The reason lies within the Japanese culture, she said. They are no risk-takers, harmony within society is big and "change is a disturbance of someone's peace."

Also, individuals who stand up and want to drive change "will be hammered down," she said.

The right way, she believes, is to go in and create a different framework for market engagement through consensus, which will then result in group action.

"This principle is fundamental to any work in Japan," Chang said.

-- Elisabeth Fischer

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Tuesday, Feb. 2, 12.20 p.m. CET

The time for offshore aquaculture is here

Passion and perseverance are the key factors that will project Manna Fish Farm’s plans ahead, Donna Lanzetta, the organization’s CEO said.

"We need to believe that the time has come for us to be out in the open ocean farming, I don’t even understand why this is not being done," she said. 

"Our plan is to take nothing from the sea, we will produce our fingerlings, our fishmeal will be organic, and it is an easy sell."

The key, she said, is not taking no for an answer, the process is long but the industry needs to believe in what they do.

-- Lola Navarro

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Tuesday, Feb. 2, 12.00 p.m. CET

Aquaculture must head to the open oceans

You've surely heard of the devil of offshore aquaculture? It was not long ago when the industry thought of it as a poisonous industry -- but thankfully that perception is changing.

In only 10 years the acceptance of aquaculture and the interest has grown significantly thanks to global events, reports, studies and transparency, said Neil Sims, Co-CEO of Kampachi Farms.

However, there is still a long road ahead - the licensing process is slow and there are still concerns among stakeholders.

The main ones: product quality, environmental impacts, conflict with fishing, commercial viability, and scaleability.

Sims was disappointed at some claims made at this summit, though, mainly that farmed fish lacks taste.

This was proven wrong in a taste poll by Tamar Haspel in 2013, he said, where the four most tasty salmon options were farmed.

Other achievements in the industry include in 2012 when Conservation International published the Blue Frontiers Study, providing conclusions based on data that aquaculture is the food production system with the least impact.

Likewise, in 2014, the US Marine Fisheries Service carried out an assessment of the environmental impact of offshore aquaculture, finding that there is no significant impact on wildlife and the environment if you do it right.

“Yet aquaculture is still seen as a detrimental practice,” he said.

For offshore aquaculture to really move forward we need to have a change in mentality, he said, “the open ocean is where there is growth potential.”

-- Lola Navarro

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Tuesday, Feb. 2, 10.36 a.m. CET

Boats don't commit crime, people do

There is a flurry of accusations every time something goes wrong. There are practical cases on a daily basis, for example, fish labelled and sold as cod which is actually pollock. It can happen. And, who do we blame? The reality is, there is a huge gap in the process, and many different players and institutions linked to the fishing vessels.

“People commit crime, not vessels,” said Alistair McDonnel, criminal intelligence officer manager at Interpol.

And the organization’s approach to IUU fishing is to connect the people participating of the network that surrounds a vessel and its activity, focusing on offenders rather than boats, and encouraging countries to do the same.

-- Lola Navarro

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Tuesday, Feb. 2, 10.17 a.m. CET

The blame game

The supply chain is so complex -- we have heard that a couple of times in the last few days -- but the truth is it is almost impossible to track down all people involved in the food processing process, said Katrina Nakamura, founder and operator of Sustainability Incubator.

Just at sea there are fishermen, skippers, vessel owners with different pressures and interests, the next link is the port, buyers, processors, and the list goes on. State borders -- exporting and importing regulations -- different certification programs each of them focusing on different criteria and linked to different states, and then you have the distributors, and the retailers, she said.

So, what can possibly go wrong? Who is the person responsible for not bringing responsibly sourced seafood to our tables? Anyone could be, really.

Besides, there are a number of concerns surrounding the industry, health and safety, human rights, legality, and sustainability are the most important.

It is hard work, but there is a need of standardizing this, and the good news is, it is possible.

Slavery exists in other industries and there are examples of good practices in other sectors, some of them have achieved very important milestones in the fight against forced labor.

The fishing industry is on the right track. Thanks to the investigative work of journalists and NGOs, the industry has had its attention drawn to IUU fishing. This has challenged sourcing, and businesses are aware of the reputational consequences of being linked with illegality, she said.

The next step is to understand the risks, and what’s acceptable and not acceptable in the decision-making. Also, there needs to be more clarity on what a robust chain of custody looks like, and regulators need to step away from the blame tactic.

“We need a shared responsibility model where everybody plays their best role,” she said.

-- Lola Navarro

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Tuesday, Feb. 2, 10.05 a.m. CET

Icelandic Seachill exec calls on government cooperation for safe supply chains

Nigel Edwards, technical and CSR director at UK processor Icelandic Seachill, called on global governments to work with the industry on securing trusted supply chains.

Collaboration between "like-minded processors," industry bodies, retailers and regulators is key to achieve transparent and trusted supply chains, and to reduce risk, he said.

But "what would we like to see governments do?"

Firstly, it's "crucial" for food security to keep seafood affordable, and governments do have some say there.

In addition, where IUU is suspected of occurring "we warmly welcome the intelligence," Edwards said.

Port state measures and RFMO reform are another way of bringing the industry forward.

In addition, governments should "engage us in establishing robust and cost-effective controls," and "reward our investment in proactive measures to ensure legal and sustainable fish," he told the audience.

-- Elisabeth Fischer

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Tuesday, Feb. 2, 9.35 a.m. CET

Sustainability very much a work in progress

The WWF’s purpose is to connect markets to sustainability, and disconnect them from unsustainable actions, but in order to do that they need to have reliable information. To get that, they need an international infrastructure for data collection. And the industry doesn’t have that just yet. 

But there are talks at different levels to achieve this, regulatory measures are in place, and the sector is moving toward industry alignment of information norms, policies and practices for transparent fishing, and effective standards for verification, David Schorr, senior manager at Transparent Seas, WWF, told the audience.

Different players are now only identifying the reach of the problem, but there are commercial and regulatory realities that might make the change possible, he said.

-- Lola Navarro

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Monday, Feb. 1, 11.03 p.m. CET

And the winner is....

On Monday evening, Seaweb announced the winners of the 2016 Seafood Champion Awards, which recognizes individuals and companies for outstanding leadership in promoting environmentally responsible seafood.

Judges select winners for the four categories -- leadership, innovation, vision, advocacy -- from 16 finalists.

Click here to see who scooped the coveted awards.

--IntraFish Media

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Monday, Feb. 1, 5.22 p.m. CET

European Investment Bank ready to step up investments in fisheries

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is planning to increase its investments into the world's fisheries in the coming years, Christopher Knowles, head of climate change and environment division at the bank, told delegates this afternoon.

Between 2009 and 2014, the EIB invested "only" €200 million into the fishing industry, which included investments across the whole value chain, including processing, he said.

Compared to this, it pumped €90 billion into climate action between 2011 and 2015 -- of which €20.6 billion last year alone.

"It’s definitely time to do more fish," Knowles said. "Policy-wise it’s a no-brainer."

One of the projects the EIB is currently working on is in cooperation with the government of the Seychelles.

"We hope to announce something in the next few months," Knowles told the audience.

--Elisabeth Fischer

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Monday, Feb. 1, 5.01 p.m. CET

Is global fishery recovery and profitability a pipe-dream?

Overfishing, over-exploitation and stock collapses -- we don't often get a lot of good news on fisheries. "There doesn't seem to be a lot of optimism about fisheries," Tim Fitzgerald, responsible for seafood market strategy at the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), pointed out this afternoon.

According to FAO and Pauly and Zeller data "we maxed out wild fisheries" years ago and the future is at best showing a "flat line."

But panelists this afternoon tried to find an answer to the question if a sustainable approach to global fishing could actually result in a profitable future.

Ray Hilborn, professor for aquatic and fishery sciences at the University of Washington, presented the results of an extensive study -- Ocean Prosperity and the Effects of Fishery Recovery -- which showed recovery could actually happen.

The study evaluated around 77 percent of the world's catch -- 4,718 fisheries -- showed that relative to a business-as-usual approach a global triple-bottom-line is possible.

Global harvest could increase by around 20 million metric tons, while biomass could increase by around 792 million metric tons. This would result in a profit increase of around $68 billion.

If managed properly, the median recovery time of a stock is about 10 years, he said. But only a consistent set of management interventions achieve results.

And countries and types of fisheries that have not yet reformed fisheries have the most to gain, Hilborn said.

"In general, the potential of catch increases is the lowest throughout our whole analysis. But the potential of profit increase is the highest."

Nigel Edwards, technical and CSR director at UK processor Icelandic Seachill, welcomed Hilborn's report.

He pointed out that any kind of fishery improvement projects (FIPs), however, will need a collaborative approach and involvement not only from the industry and environmental organizations and NGOs but above all from respective governments.

"We cannot fund FIPs as commercial companies, we need the government to fund these projects," he said.  

Partnerships with green NGOs, he believes could be the best way to gain access to governmental support and funding institutions, Edwards believes.

--Elisabeth Fischer

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Monday, Feb. 1, 3.13 p.m. CET

The pros and cons of the landing obligation

EU fishermen, up to now, decided not to land all the fish they caught, and that was legal. After years of claims for fishermen to better select stocks, mixed messages and confusion over the different proposals, the EU fleet is finally implementing the discard ban, or landing obligation.

However, the industry agrees there are some loopholes in this new policy.

“Nobody disagrees that discarding is wrong, but why did the European Commission not work along with the industry to come up with a reachable scheme?” asked a member of the audience.

They’re starting with the least problematic fisheries, and will see throughout 2016 the biggest challenges and contrasts it will bring to the fishing sector.

Mike Park from the Scottish White Fish Producers Association gave an introduction on the main threats fishermen may face.

Early closure of choking fisheries is one of them and the likely return to an anarchic past and the culture of non compliance, together with the lack of non sea monitoring could be another, he said.

Ironically, the discard ban could lead to an increased mortality resulting from vessels continuing to discard while landing more on the market, and the breakdown in relationships, for example, between fishermen scientists and managers, Park warned.

But there are opportunities, too.

It is a stimulus for change. People in the industry now have to start sharing information and communicating better. It should also provide a more complete picture on the stocks due to better recording of catches, and gives a broader understanding of international dimensions.

-- Lola Navarro

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Monday, Feb. 1, 3.10 p.m. CET

Exemptions to the EU landings obligation

"This regulation was not created to destroy businesses," said Liane Veitch, from the Fisheries Project Lead Client Earth.

It was needed, and there is a way of making the most of it, she said. There are also some exemptions that may be applied when implementing it.

The so-called de minimis, by which a small amount of discarding -- 7 percent over the next two years and 5 percent in the long term – of certain species will still be allowed.

There will also be inter-species and inter-annual discard flexibility.

But these exemptions are designed to be useful, and must be applied in the appropriate way to avoid risks, said Veitch.

--Lola Navarro

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Monday, Feb. 1, 3.02 p.m. CET

Price -- not sustainability -- sells

Panelists at this afternoon's Gauging Consumer Engagement and Common Perceptions of Sustainable Seafood panel agreed: It's still price that sells fish and seafood, and not sustainability.

While it is a buzzword thrown around in marketing campaigns, it is actually the price that mainly drives purchasing decision in the United States, said The Fishin' Co's Matt Brooker.

Julia Brooks, market insight analysts at the United Kingdom's Seafood Industry Authority, agreed, saying sustainability is not something UK consumers take into consideration, price is still the main driver.

--Elisabeth Fischer

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Monday, Feb. 1, 2.42 p.m. CET

Farmed vs. wild: There's one clear winner

Everyone in the industry knows how crucial aquaculture's role is and will be to secure the future supply of fish and seafood. But things look different on a consumer level.

According to a consumer survey by US-based importer the Fishin' Co consumer perceptions, about half of the respondents had a negative perception of farmed seafood.

On the other hand, 88 percent of interviewees had a clearly positive view of wild seafood.

"It is natural, it felt right to them, is of higher quality and taste," Matt Brooker, senior category manager at The Fishin’ Co, said while presenting the results.

But, he added, there is a difference between perception and actual eating behavior -- a significant share of consumers don't know if they're actually eating farmed or wild fish.

Consumers simply "don't know too much about aquaculture," Brooker said. 

"They don’t understand the magnitude of what we’re [the aquaculture industry] trying to do. They’re trying to secure a worldwide, sensible commodity."

But where do you start to change this misperception? One member of the audience said getting consumers to understand it's all just a fish, wild or not, is the first step.

--Elisabeth Fischer

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Monday, Feb. 1, 12.35 p.m. CET

How to reach the masses

Growing demand for seafood will have two main drivers in the years to come: population growth, primarily in Africa, and wealth growth, especially in Asia.

And the  industry will have to take a different approach for each of these regions, Steven Gaines researcher at the Donald Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, University of California, told delegates.

But in the end the cost of water and land use are included in the final price of products, meaning environmental challenges and increasing global demand could have really big implications in terms of how they affect prices, he said.

On the way the industry should approach different geographies, food ethnographer June Jo Lee said she believes it is important to work through institutions to reach a wider audience in a more effective way.

“We do speak with progressive consumers with greater income and access to Internet, it is a really important group to keep track of,” she said. “However, the food industry is listening to minorities, and it has invested in them. The organic industry in the US started in a very small consumer group but it has become a major stream consumer group.”

Speaking about the United States, the work through institutions has helped reaching geographical groups that wouldn’t have access to the appropriate information: school campaigns reforms, prisons, and the military.

“Thinking of organizations that feed a lot of people is a way of reaching people who can’t afford to do so themselves,” she said.

--Lola Navarro

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Monday, Feb. 1, 12.10 p.m. CET

How good is the seafood industry at adapting to change? Not so great

Healthy foods, freshness, sustainability, transparency and the "renaissance" in cooking -- everyone knows about the most recent trends in the food arena.

But how good is the seafood industry in adapting to these changes in consumers' eating habits? Well, actually not that great, June Jo Lee, a Seattle-based food ethnographer and VP of strategic insight at The Harman Group, told delegates today.

The fish category is still often "too complicated for consumers," at least in the United States, she said.

So how can we change and make fish and seafood a more prominent item on consumers' menus?

Lee had some simple pointers:

  • tell your story -- don't talk about sustainability but create a story around your products
  • enter the snacking category. Around 50 percent of the food eaten by US consumers are snacks -- a "great opportunity" for seafood producers.
  • engage in the digital food community and speak directly to consumers. Get your story out in more than just a sound-bite.
  • play in food culture -- "you should all be foodies or at least have a friend who is a foodie." Figure out where food culture is going and start using the language of consumers.
  • create new foods to make eating sustainable fish and seafood "delicious, easy and fun. What if we invent new food forms to make eating sustainable fish more fun?
  • give consumers some good questions to ask to help them understand fish and seafood
  • create a new category for aquaculture -- wild fish are animals but how does aquaculture fit in on an everyday basis?
  • create the future of fish together with consumers.

--Elisabeth Fischer

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Monday, Feb. 1, 11.45 a.m. CET

A gas problem nearly the size of China

The consequences of the different options of food production and the environmental impact on our lands are bad, and some of them even catastrophic, Steve Gaines, researcher at the Donald Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, University of California, said.

Livestock and agriculture make up a third of total greenhouse gas production, among other drivers such as fuel consumption, transportation.

But how about the oceans? How can they change the view of what the next 30 years is going to be in the sense of food production?

“Fixing all the world’s fisheries wouldn’t make a giant contribution to fixing the problem,” Gaines said. “That would result in a mere 5 percent growth in animal protein production.”

There are a few factors adding up to the problem, not only greenhouse gas emissions, but also the amount of land required, and the amount of fresh water needed to produce animal protein.

To put it into context, it would take up to 75 percent of the land of South America, and as much fresh water as is in Lake Huron a year to produce the animal protein the world is going to need by 2050. All this, producing gas proportional to 72 percent of China, or 132 percent of the United States.

On the other hand, to produce a similar amount of animal protein from aquaculture, we would need land taking up to 95 percent of Australia, and that would produce greenhouse gas amounting to 95 percent of New Zealand.

“Looking forward to the environmental impact associated to seafood production, the options are dramatically better than any other option on land and in some cases they are even better than entirely vegetarian options,” Gaines told delegates. ​

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-- Lola Navarro

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Monday, Feb. 1, 10.30 a.m. CET

How do you get consumers to choose fish?

US red meat consumption has been in decline since 1980, which was the peak year for beef. But instead of trading into fish and seafood, consumers are opting for chicken and -- most recently -- more plants, Arlin Wassermann, founder of Changing Tastes, told the audience during his keynote presentation on Monday morning.

In a bid to avoid "harmful ingredients" and eat more sustainably, today's "most relevant sustainable food choices are chicken and plants," he said.

So fish and seafood is in danger of being left out when it comes to the next big thing in eating habits.

"My opinion is we have 2.5 to 3 years to win more plate share," he said. So what will it take for seafood to become the next chicken of the sea?

Wassermann suggested to follow a few simple rules: Firstly, the industry should talk about "ideal proteins" such as omega-3s rather than just "more proteins."

In addition, the industry should start comparing the "finprint" of fish to the footprint of other foods rather than just comparing it to chicken, beef or dairy. "Why is our ingredient better?"

The industry should also make transparency and traceability an advantage, and integrate seasonality and locale into its marketing efforts, he said.

The industry will also have to win on price volatility and understand new price drivers such as feed and disease impacts, and communicate them to consumers, he said.

"We also have to address the question of antibiotic use before it arises," Wassermann further suggested.

Lastly, the industry needs to establish leadership on animal welfare, he said.

With these things in mind, a transition to more fish and seafood could be on the agenda, he believes.

--Elisabeth Fischer

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Sunday, Jan. 31, 6.10 p.m. CET

New England Seafood looks deeper into the supply chain

In general, seafood processors need to understand a great deal more about the crews working on the vessels. Wider visibility and a broader understanding of the working conditions on board is key, Lucy Blow of UK-based processor New England Seafood, said.

This is why the company has come up a crew agreement document in a bid to make clear to suppliers what is expected within their supply chain.

"We began with frozen at sea tuna vessels. The key of the document is welfare and integrity for the crew," she said.

To compile the document, New England Seafood handed a draft to suppliers to understand the gaps the document could have, and the possible contradictions with current regulations in each of the countries where it was expected to be implemented.

Nowadays, all their major suppliers of FAS tuna have signed the document, but again, measuring the impact and the actual implementation is a big struggle. 

"What is the evidence? How do you prove this is being followed?" Blow asked. "It is very hard, and we cannot be 100 percent sure, but we are committed to achieve this, suggestions are welcome.”

--Lola Navarro

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Sunday, Jan. 31, 5.55 p.m. CET

M&S commits to tackle social issues in supply chain

UK retailer Marks & Spencer stands for a strong position on responsible seafood sourcing and ethical trade is at the heart of its policy, said Helen McTaggart, trading manager at UK retailer Marks & Spencer.

"We see human rights on business agendas rising. Inequality and massive migration are also key," she told the audience.

In seafood, the retailer's responsible sourcing agenda has so far been focused on the environment.

"Clearly Thailand is important, but I suppose what perplexes us is the whole ethical problem," she said.

"We need to understand the complex underlining issues, where are the greens, where are the ambers and where are the reds.

"What we are really clear on is our commitment to moving forward with this agenda. Collaboration is key, and we are looking forward to getting started."

--Lola Navarro

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Sunday, Jan. 31, 5.40 p.m. CET

The myth and the truth

Do you have a picture in mind of the 'typical' UK fishermen? Many have, and it's the one of a white-headed, bearded, drunk man at sea.

But the reality is different. Many operate their vessels as a family business, and crew safety and wellbeing is No. 1 priority, said David Dickens of the Fishermen's Mission in the United Kingdom.

The organization's key weapon in uncovering human right abuses is building up relationships with the crew, he said.

"We try very hard to get to know these people, to build their trust so that they can come to us when they’re struggling," he said.

There are some big issues, but three are the ones he highlighted: human trade routes, international supply chain metrics, and lack of presence.

It is a reality, two people can do the same work but they are getting different salaries because they come from different parts of the world -- and cultural ignorance is an important part of inequality, he said.

--Lola Navarro

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Sunday, Jan. 31 5.30 p.m. CET

Bridging the gap between traceability and transparency

"There has been a lot of traceability improvement in the industry," said Andy Hall, from the Migrant Worker Rights Network (MWRN).

"The majority of the companies know where their fish is coming from, but the problem is they don’t know what the working conditions are like in those places, so they can’t provide the full picture."

The MWRN is currently assisting companies in approaching the issue from a wider and deeper perspective.

"We are working on developing social dialogue between migrant workers and employers -- we are bringing them together to find solutions," Hall said.

--Lola Navarro

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Sunday, Jan. 31, 4.45 p.m. CET

Slavery -- Thailand 'in the eye of the hurricane'

What is collaboration? It's about the process of taking good initiatives and converting energy and resources into implementing changes, said the Ethical Trading Initiative's Nick Knightley.

One of the most recent and significant examples of slavery in seafood is Thailand, but the rest of the world needs to get involved in solving that problem, he urged.

“Thailand is now in the eye of the hurricane, we need to put ourselves in the middle of that storm and come up with ways of supporting and helping them,” he said.

“We need to sit down with Thai companies and provide them with the necessary guidance.”

--Lola Navarro

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Sunday, Jan. 31, 3.40 p.m. CET

Looking for realistic solutions to slavery

The Bon Appetite Management Company has been collaborating with a number of organizations to fight different problems in the industry.

“Antibiotics use in fish farming, slavery and forced labor in the seafood industry … the list goes on and on,” said the firm's Maisie Ganzler at her talk on Sunday giving a supply chain perspective from the United States.

Seafood Watch, she said, and the film 'Empty Oceans, Empty Nets,' changed Bon Appetite's way of doing business.

At the moment, there are issues to be addressed, and different projects in place to solve these problems. But the industry needs to keep listening, and proposing solutions as a next step, Ganzler said.

Codes of conduct often fall short, and other initiatives such as boarding the boats are also ineffective, she said.

Combined, however, the different projects work, even though it is difficult to tell their actual effect towards eradicating slavery, Ganzler said.

“We are acknowledging the problem, asking questions and learning,” she told the audience.

--Lola Navarro

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Sunday, Jan. 31, 3.25 p.m. CET

Addressing slavery? Collaboration is key

“We know for a fact that working together works,” said Mike Mitchell, technical & CSR advisor for UK processor Young’s Seafood.

Slavery exists in the fishing industry, we know that, and it is "shocking and shameful," he said.

“I have known this for a long time, but nothing affected me personally quite as much as The Guardian article 'Revealed: How the Thai fishing industry traffics, imprisons and enslaves,'” published  in June 2014.

There are 27 to 30 million enslaved people in the world, which makes it not an issue in Thailand alone -- or the developing world for that matter. It is a global issue, Mitchell said.

“No business alone is bigger than this problem; we are all in some form of the other evolving and understanding the problem.”

Collaboration will be key, coming together with solutions, sharing inputs and proposals is what will help the industry eradicate slavery, he believes.

--Lola Navarro

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Sunday, Jan. 31, 3.10 p.m. CET

Transparency will save lives

Global media outlets have been key in bringing the slavery issue to the top of the agenda of the seafood industry, Kevin Hyland, UK Anti-slavery commissioner, said on Sunday.

While challenges are plentiful -- and complex -- there is now worldwide interest to implement change, he said.

Globalization has played a major factor in the expansion of human trafficking; supply chains are too broad, and it is hard work to identify the numerous issues there are at every level of the chain.

Exploitation, Hyland said, is only profitable when someone is willing to buy products from suppliers using forced labor at some point of the supply chain.

Transparency is the way to go to tackle the issue, and of course, collaboration.

“Every player that participates in a business that has a turnover of £36 million in the UK must produce a slavery and human trafficking statement every year,” he said.

It is a fact that the culture of transparency works, he said. People can choose to look away, but they can no longer say “I didn’t know.”

Every single stakeholder has a role to play, he said.

But there has been progress: Last year, governments issued yellow and red cards to different countries, to ensure slavery is not part of the fishing industry; media identifying the issue has raised awareness among consumers, and NGOs are developing prevention programs, lobbying and prosecuting offenders.

In addition, many businesses in the private sector have changed their business practices, and even cut ties with alleged slavery-related supply chains.

Slavery is a criminal practice, and it must be recognized as such, Hyland said.

Read also: When a penny saved is a life ruined.

--Lola Navarro

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Sunday, Jan. 31, 1.00 p.m. CET

Welcome to Malta!

The 12th edition of the SeaWeb Seafood Summit gets underway this week in the scenic holiday town of St Julian's, Malta.

This year's conference program will address the future of production, supply chains and consumption.

Topics will focus on the success and innovation in sustainable seafood that will lead the industry into the future and the challenges, strategies and emerging issues that will shape the marketplace a decade from now.

It will feature five plenaries and more than 25 breakout sessions including panel discussions, lightning talks and keynote presentations.

Things kick off on Sunday with a workshop on social responsibility in seafood -- addressing one of the industry's most-debated and pressing issues.

Following the final plenary on Monday, the winners of the coveted Seafood Champion Awards celebration will be announced.

--IntraFish Media

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