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Seafood Summit blog: Hatcheries still a problem for wild salmon's eco-credentials
After a two and a half year hiatus, the premier conference for the sustainable seafood movement is back. What's changed? Follow our live coverage here.
Wednesday, Feb. 11, 12:30 pm C.S.T
MSC salmon standard 2.0
For a number of years now, the MSC has put policy development for wild salmon under a microscope and has modified its certification requirements to include enhancement impacts on salmon.
The new standard of the certification requirements, version 2.0, was published last October and will become effective April 1, after which, "any new salmon fisheries entering the program will use these requirements ... but fisheries already existing in the program have three years," or until October 2017, to comply to the changes.
MSC Fisheries Assessment Manager Megan Atcheson broke down two principals in the standard.
The first principle requires that fisheries' enhancement activities do not have significant negative impacts on the local adaptation, reproductive performance or productivity and diversity of wild stocks.
"The second states enhancement activities do not hinder recovery of ETP species, do not have adverse impacts on habitat such as water quality and do not cause serious or irreversible harm to ecosystems," she said.
"The policy is outcome- and science-based and involved stakeholders in the development process including the fisheries industry, the scientific and environmental communities and the commercial sector."
Wednesday, Feb. 11, 10:50 am C.S.T.
Still discomfort with salmon hatcheries
With salmon as such an iconic and integral part of the North Pacific culture, Ocean Outcomes Fisheries Science Director Randy Ericksen said the species needs to be monitored closely, and both wild and hatchery fish need to be carefully examined.
"If population declines, there's a good indication there's a problem with the ecosystem ... It's a social choice that we make that wild salmon are there for future generations," he said.
Concerns over hatcheries are founded, and more research needs to be done to examine the true impact.
"Whether intentionally or unintentionally, there's artificial selection going on with picking larger fish," he said. "They're taking fish earlier in the spawning runs to meet intake goals."
Also, salmon adapted to the hatchery environment are not as genetically fit for natural environments.
Five billion hatchery fish are released into the Pacific Northeast oceans each year, with the most from Japan, then Alaska and then Russia.
Ericksen warned against competition for limited spawning habitat and less 'fit' fish due to interbreeding.
Natural Resources Consultants Salmon Scientist Greg Ruggerone added, "many of the hatchery fish end up breeding with wild fish leading to genetic issues."
Alaska's hatcheries try to keep its salmon separate from the wild population while "other hatcheries are more of an integrated approach," in which those hatcheries try to make its hatchery population as wild as possible and those fish are allowed to spawn naturally, Ericksen said.
Wednesday, Feb. 11, 10:40 am C.S.T
Social issues first, then sustainability
"We can't expect to make environmental or conservation gains without correcting social issues, Wendy Norden, science program director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, said.
Rosanna Bernadette Contreras, executive director of SOCSKSARGEN Federation, echoed Norden's statement adding while technological advances have been made, small-scale fishing is still family based and labor intensive.
Poverty is still a large problem, which causes many to leave the industry.
"We hope to ensure that fishers are taken care of," Contreras said.
"Unfortunately, not all fishermen, especially smaller ones ... most are just concerned with putting food on the table, but complacency is not an option," she said, adding they need help to realize the need to "move with the changing times."
Nathan Associates Inc. Director Timothy Moore added in starting this dialog, the government wanted to see ASEAN engaging big processors but also smaller fishers and farmers.
Wednesday, Feb. 11 10:05 am C.S.T.
Calls for benchmarks to measure sustainable, social progress
ASEAN worked with advisors and NGOs to develop the standards, but NFI Crab Council Asia Liaison Jeremy Crawford said one of the hurdles ASEAN faced was a lack of history and data from smaller fishers and farmers.
The standards are made up of environmental and social benchmarks with improvement steps in between in order to measure a fishery's progress.
In having improvement steps, this offers more encouragement to the region's fishers and farmers because "they need more encouragement than red ratings ... A lot of small scale fisheries are addressing the sustainability agenda. Some improvements have been made in the region, but it's hard to get recognition if you undercut it with a red rating."
Crawford added ASEAN'S step by step guidelines will also bring social and traceability aspects to the industry.
There is no third party verification in the standard and the reason why ASEAN is not adopting existing national standards is because it wants to "start with something they're already familiar with and add bits and pieces to make it more meaningful," Postelsia Founder Corey Peet said.
"No one is obligated [to adopt these standards]. This is a private sector idea," he said, adding while certifications is more of a "catch-all check all the boxes" model, "this would allow more of a partnership model.
"It's only going to work if all the partners come to the table. We've got the producers and now Seafood Watch. Now what we're looking for is that buyer link, a buyer interested in working through this kind of approach."
Wednesday, Feb. 11, 9:40 am C.S.T.
Push-back from merging ASEAN standards
"Farmers want to improve ... Thai farmers really don't understand why the Thai aquaculture practices are not good enough for buyers. Many of us in this room understand why it's not good enough, so that's the tension. You're bringing in a [foreign] standards and there's push-back," Postelsia Founder Corey Peet said.
He added fishery and aquaculture improvements in that region don't reflect in the marketplace.
"I think it's about finding the right incentive for them to improve."
People look at the fish but not the fishery and if there's no incentive for them to become sustainable, they won't comply to a new system of standards, NFI Crab Council Asia Liaison Jeremy Crawford said.
Crawford also believes solutions should emerge from domestic input.
"This ASEAN platform allows for southeast Asian stakeholders to be part of the dialog. All these standards that are coming in from foreign countries is not really received well."
Rosanna Bernadette Contreras, executive director of SOCSKSARGEN Federation, said challenges in harmonizing ASEAN standards and global standards also stem from the fact that fishing and aquaculture methods in the region differ greatly from the rest of the world as many operations are small and family based.
However, she added that changes will be difficult as existing industry methods in southeast Asia are "embedded in our history and culture" and current certification standards are out of reach for many fishermen.
With 80 percent of world's fishing vessels in the ASEAN region, "we hope to provide our fishermen a more affordable platform for improvement," Contreras said.
At the beginning, Contreras said she was "apprehensive."
"In Asia, it is very hard to pull people and ask them to sit down and talk. With this project, I've seen this process evolve and Asians have started talking."
She hopes to see this through to fruition, shape these tools and "keep our fish and our fishers both happy in the process."
"Our market is becoming more intelligent and there is a growing concern on how fishery products are harvested and produced," also Contreras said.
Wednesday, Feb. 11, 9:15 am C.S.T.
ASEAN focus on fisheries, aquaculture improvement
With the goal of stakeholder engagement, ASEAN has an ongoing dialog between the industry and government in southeast Asian countries to improve fisheries and aquaculture.
ASEAN plans to form a single economic community by the end of 2015.
"There wasn't a very cooperative relationship between industry and government in the past," Nathan Associates Inc. Director Timothy Moore said.
The group is looking to harmonize global standards and ASEAN standards and the government showed interest in FIPs. It is currently working on the third draft for fishery protocol and just released fourth draft for shrimp protocol for public comment a few days ago.
Some current initiatives include training pilot programs in areas such as management and disease control.
ASEAN hopes task force efforts will continue after its market project ends in March with a possible extension through June.
In working with governments "over the years, we've been instrumental in the passing of legislations, policies and regulations, and as a result, we have gained seats in the policy and advisory body of the Philippine government," Rosanna Bernadette Contreras, executive director of SOCSKSARGEN Federation, said.
The group has gained seats in the Filipino governing body as well.
The region will "represent a huge market domestically" going forward because in the next 10-20 years, there are projections of large gaps in food security, especially in protein, Nathan Associates Inc. Director Timothy Moore.
"There's an opportunity for increased inter-regional trade" and demand will grow in the eastern China and in other parts of the world, he said.
Tuesday, Feb. 10, 5:30 pm C.S.T.
Whole Foods: Salmon, the king of fish and seafood
Whole Foods Market Seafood Quality Standards Coordinator Carrie Brownstein said farmed and wild salmon is the highest selling item among its seafood.
"Farmed salmon is our No 1 SKU. It's huge for us," Brownstein said. "Salmon is growing faster than rest of the seafood department" and Whole Foods is seeing a 30 percent growth in farmed salmon year-over-year.
Wanting to "set a high bar and move the industry forward," Whole Foods spent a year in research and development to create its farmed salmon standards, which included extensive conversations from all parts of the supply chain.
It also presented a timeline to give the industry time to adapt and adopt to the standards, such as no treated nets.
Any farmer who wants to sell to Whole Foods has to go through an application program and pass an on-site third party audit process, Brownstein said.
The company works with less than ten farms and look to develop long-term partnerships. The number is low because the standards are high and rigorous.
Brownstein said the standard "allows us to communicate to the public and to our customers what is going on out there on the water ... and tell stories of farmers like [Kvaroy's] Alf [Knutsen]."
Tuesday, Feb. 10, 4:35 pm C.S.T
The big regulation game
With much of farmed salmon modeled very similarly, there are some implementing new ideas.
Salmon aquaculture consumes the majority of the world's fish oil and as it grew 10 percent each year, "the harvest of fish that provided that oil was flat. This was not at all stable," Monterey Bay Aquarium Seagreen Research Founder Peter Bridson said.
To set itself apart in the industry, AquaChile-owned Verlasso replaces fish oil in its feed with GMO yeast to lower feeder fish dependence.
However, with GMO yeast comes an expected level of consumer confusion and Verlasso's Scott Nichols fields these questions from the public.
"If you ate cornflakes for breakfast this morning, you are now a transgendered human and the more you say that to people that what these fish eat is yeast that is genetically modified, it doesn't confer any genetic changes on them," Nichols said.
Another salmon farm going down a path less traveled is family-owned Kvaroy Fiskeoppdrett.
General Manager Alf-Goran Knutsen said the small farm is the "heart of the island," which has a population of about 70 people.
"We do things a little differently," Knutsen said.
"The things we do is not to sell our salmon more easily. We want to produce a quality salmon in a sustainable way."
Kvaroy Fiskeoppdrett is the only company in Norway certified with the Whole Foods Standard.
As sea lice continues to plague the farmed salmon industry as well as the high chemical amounts used to combat the lice, Knutsen is using lumpsucker fish to address the issue instead of chemicals.
The Norwegian lice problem "has gone from okay to very bad in just a few years.
"The government has lowered the amount of lice you can have on each fish from year to year and that resulted in more and more chemicals used for de-licing," he said.
"We now have super-resistant lice that we can't use any chemicals on."
Kvaroy Fiskeoppdrett invested in the first facility to invest in lumpsuckers to reduce lice and the farm has plans to add new sites to grow up to 13 million lumpsuckers.
However, lumpsuckers come with its own challenges including an Norwegian government regulation that prohibits lumpsuckers to be returned to the sea afterwards and "we have to wait ... three months before reusing it.”
Knutsen has seen increased recognition and demand for his salmon. Monterey Bay Aquarium Seagreen Research Founder Peter Bridson said sea lice and high pesticide use to control lice are growing problems in Chile as well.
Tuesday, Feb. 10 4:05 pm C.S.T
Farmed salmon: Moving from sustainability to commercial aspects
Since selling its first fish in 2011, Verlasso has been able to achieve several sustainable measures with farmed salmon, including lowering pen density and fish-in-fish-out ratios.
However, the sustainable industry "now needs to include the commercial aspects," Verlasso Director Scott Nichols said.
Sustainability is complex and is not a clear-cut "conversation that resonates well with consumers" by being "distilled and simplified ... and made precise and pithy and that's not an easy thing to do."
He added one method to open dialog with consumers is to obtain sustainability ratings and the labels "communicates very clearly with consumers."
Another method is to show consumers "how you raise your food matters. That's being manifested in the taste of the salmon we present you."
Nichols said retailers are still a major part of how consumers view sustainability.
Tuesday, Feb. 10, 3:55 pm C.S.T.
Hokkaido fisheries: bigger than you might think
We know Japan's Hokkaido fisheries industry is big, but how big?
Kazuhito Fukuda, deputy director of sales at Hokkaido's largest fisheries organization, Hokkaido Gyoren, gave a run down of the eye-opening basics in the markets and production seminar on Far East markets.
More than 16,640 fishermen operate in Hokkaido's fisheries, with 924 licenses, 74 fisheries cooperatives and three federations.
Some 1.3 million metric tons of fish are harvested, worth a whopping JPY 286.4 billion.
Tuesday, Feb. 10, 3:45 pm C.S.T.
Life after assessment
The Hokkaido chum salmon fishery first began looking into an eco-label in 2007, when it saw its Alaska competitors commanding a price premium, and Chinese buyers increasingly asking exporters if the carried the MSC stamp, according to Kazuhito Fukuda, deputy director of sales at the Hokkaido Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Association.
"Global demand for chum salmon is on the rise, so we felt pursuing eco-labels and FIPs could be used to promote fishery and stabilize stocks," he said.
But that was only the beginning of a long, frustrating journey. The incredibly diverse set of stakeholders in the fishery came together and began full assessment of the Kitami region on the island, and began the arduous task of collecting data and having it translated into English.
In 2012 and 2013, however, it was clear something was off: peer reviewers could not agree on the scoring of the fishery, and eventually said unless the fishery was able to produce more data on the interactions between hatchery and wild salmon, it wouldn't pass.
The groups withdrew from assessment in 2014.
"It is difficult to make foreign assessment body understand Japanese fisheries management and hatchery programs," Fukuda said.
"They're very unique in Japan."
That being the case, Fukuda said his group still sees the market benefit of eco-labels. But they would need to fit the "reality" of Japanese fisheries.
"I don't consider it a failure," said Brian Caouette, of newly formed Asia-focused FIP Ocean Outcomes. "A lot of work has been done, and the fact the fact the Hokkaido cooperative is still working on it is a good sign.
"Hindsight's 20/20 -- the MSC probably wasn't the right tool for this fishery," Caouette added.
Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2:35 pm C.S.T.
Sustainability and capitalism, together at last
Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver Executive Chef Ned Bell said restaurants can make money with sustainable seafood.
"I'll do you one better, not only can you afford it, but your business can grow by choosing sustainable seafood," Bell said.
Although his restaurant has become 100-percent sustainable, "we can't ask that of all of our peers," he said.
"People say sustainable seafood is more expensive; I say, 'Yes, but more expensive compared to what?'" he said.
"I'm a chef, but I'm also a capitalist. I need my business to make money but I need to find a sustainable way to do that."
Bell said he's proud to work "shoulder to shoulder" with Canadian and US chefs pushing for sustainability because they can affect consumer demand.
"Chefs have an opportunity to engage their customers," he said. A customer eating a meal in Bell's restaurant can then go into a retailer and ask for that sustainable seafood.
Retailer Hy-Vee's Perishables VP Nate Stewart said the concept of sustainable seafood in the US Midwest is "foreign," but the appetite for knowledge is growing among his consumers.
Thirteen months ago, Hy-Vee announced its partnership with FishWise and has since started a "responsible choice" label. Stewart calls the move "the best thing I've probably ever done in my career.
"If you're going to do business, you're going to do it in the right way," he said. "Retail is not the enemy of sustainability."
However, in building consumer demand, "you can't make a demand for something that people don't even know what to do with."
In this new business model, Hy-Vee is promoting the story behind sustainable seafood.
"We're trying to grab our customers by the hand and have them walk the journey together," Stewart said.
One challenge in Hy-Vee's sustainability journey was removing popular – but unsustainable – items from shelves.
"It started out we had to force it, but it was more of an investment than an expense," he said.
Hy-Vee consumers now know they've been eating farmed salmon and "they're just beginning to ask about wild ... Midwest consumers have an appetite to learn about seafood."
Stewart said in 10-15 years, the "younger group coming in is demanding this of us" and consumers can quickly spread the conversation today through social media and blogs."Seafood is special. I have yet to meet a person that says they're going to switch to eating seafood so that they can save some money. That person doesn't exist."
Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2:20 pm C.S.T.
A piece of the pie
South Bay Wild Commercial Fisherman Rob Seitz brought up concerns on demand and profits trickling down from retail to fisheries.
"The price of fish hasn't come up to compensate for the cost of being sustainable," Seitz said, adding that the cost is the same for small independent fisheries as larger companies.
Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Outreach Program Manager Ryan Bigelow said there were “no guarantees that money will come back to you.”
“We know some of that money has to get back to the fishermen because then, what's the point?" he said.
He said there is work being done through marketing and social media to spread sustainability knowledge.
SeaChoice National Manager Lana Gunnlaugson added festivals, events and media stories are other methods to help create the story and dialogue around fisheries.
From the food service perspective, Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver Executive Chef Ned Bell said partnerships can be done for a more direct trickle effect.
"One thing we have done, in the last ten years is work with individual fishermen and guilds of shellfish cultivators on creating brands that are recognized in the community. Then we can charge a premium on our menu" for that brand.
As a chef, Bell strives to tell the stories of fisheries on a plate.
"I love going to the table and telling them when, where and how their food was caught."
Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2:10 pm C.S.T.
The push on retailers and restaurants to make changes to their sourcing policies largely has been successful, but consumer education remains a problem, Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Outreach Program Manager Ryan Bigelow said.
He added that although a survey showed 69 percent of consumers are aware of sustainability, "do they know what sustainability means?"
"Almost every major retailer has a sustainable commitment in one way or another," he said.
There are businesses, such as Whole Foods, where consumers do care about sustainability.
On the other end of the spectrum, though, are foodservice businesses such as universities, hospitals and prisons who "don't necessarily know where their food comes from, and it's usually a third-party foodservice provider," making passing knowledge on to consumer difficult.
Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2:10 pm C.S.T.
Taking an optimistic view of tuna
Bill Fox, VP Fisheries, WWF US, had an optimistic view of the strides taken to improve the sustainability in the tuna sector of late.
"I've seen more progress in the last five years than in my entire career," he said, speaking at a seminar on the sustainable sourcing policies for tuna at the SeaWeb Seafood summit earlier this week.
The formation of the International Sustainable Seafood Federation (ISSF) was an unprecedented breakthrough, Fox said, noting membership has now reached 24 companies accounting for some 70 percent of global tuna harvests.
The engagement has put a growing number of tuna fisheries into fisheries improvement projects (FIPs) or the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification process, including Fiji albacore, Philippines handline, Indonesia tuna, Vietnam tuna, AAFA albacore and PNA skipjack.
Since 2008, the progress has been particularly impressive, Fox said.
Less than 0.5 percent of tuna fisheries were MSC-certified at the time -- the figure is now 12 percent.
He cited Bumble Bee Seafoods' five-year "experiment" with its MSC- and WWF-labeled Wild Selections line as one major success.
"MSC-certified canned tuna has been in the US market with a logo since 2013, and more is coming," Fox said.
Tri Marine's MSC-certified Ocean Naturals line is the latest entrant.
"We're making some real progress from companies claiming there was MSC-certified tuna in [their cans] to cans with the logo to ensure you're getting it," Fox said.
The next quantum leap for ISSF is a proactive vessel registry (PVR), which will allow compliant vessels to make themselves known, and perhaps more notably, keep non-compliant vessels off the supply list.
While initially ISSF was leaving the publicizing of the list to individual companies, it was too onerous for them, Fox said.
"Then the staff said, 'Hey, this is valuable, why don't we put this out and make it public, and let the vessels themselves self-identify, and hire a firm to go out and audit?'" Fox said. "This was a brilliant idea."
By the end of 2015, all ISSF participating companies will only buy from PVR vessels.
"Those that don't self-identify will not be purchased by 75 percent of the market," Fox said.
With the success of the project, Fox hopes to bring the PVR concept to other fisheries.
Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2:00 pm C.S.T.
Stand by your FIP
UK supplier New England Seafood has put fisheries improvement projects (FIPs) in the center of its sourcing policy, and continues to invest in fisheries even after market forces make it difficult -- or even impossible -- to purchase the fish.
"We have to incentivize them," Lucy Blow, head of corporate social responsibility at New England Seafood said. "There are some really promising fisheries that we could bring to the sustainability journey and they could be pivotal to a whole regions."
Though New England Seafood's four sourcing pillars include sustainability, traceability, price and availability, Blow said the company puts more weight on the former two.
"So we have to make compromises," Blow said, speaking at a seminar on the sustainable sourcing policies for tuna at the Seafood summit.
Yellowfin tuna accounts from around 1/3 of New England Seafood's business, so the work on that species are particularly paramount for the company, Blow said.
Deciding how to engage and what level of investment to put into fisheries improvement projects, however, has been relatively informal. For the Philippines FIP, it was literally a "back of the cigarette pack" calculation, Blow said.
Beyond simply financing, much of the work was about understanding the fishery and the culture of the communities participating in it.
"We need to incentivize them, and we have to be very careful with this balancing act," Blow said, and that comes from creating market demand.
New England Seafood works with virtually every major UK retailer, including Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury's, Waitrose, Asda and Morrisons.
"By building trade, we can encourage companies to work with us," Blow said.
New England Seafood initiated its first FIP in the Philippines in 2008, together with nine partners, with the goal of moving those fisheries to the MSC. Politics, however, can get in the way of the best of intentions.
New England Seafood continued to stand by the fisheries in Sri Lanka and the Philippines, however, even after the two countries were given red and yellow cards by the European Union in 2014, Blow said.
"We're investing, we're staying in it -- but we've got no trade," she said. "I can't buy any fish [Sri Lanka] if I wanted to."
That commitment shows the communities that western partners can and will support their efforts in good times and bad.
"These FIPs can engender change in a fishery," Blow said. "It's not about leaving a fishery, it's about encouraging them to improve."
Tuesday, Feb. 10, 1:45 pm C.S.T.
Selling the sizzle (and the sustainability)
SeaChoice National Manager Lana Gunnlaugson said there is a challenge changing consumer demand because "they're voting with their wallets."
In working with retailers and customers, it's important to have a compelling story behind the product and "over time, social media can be a powerful tool," Gunnlaugson said, referencing the ALS "ice bucket challenge.
"Consumer demand can also be built through festivals, sustainable food competitions and restaurant menu promotions.
She gave an example with British Columbia spot shrimp.
After several years of building consumer demand, "Canadians are paying a pretty penny for them.
"There's now a push for signatures to create National Sustainable Seafood Day in Canada. Parliament will vote on it March 18.
Tuesday, Feb. 10, 12:00 pm C.S.T.
The quest for Canadian certified cod
Since Loblaw Co. Ltd. started transitioning to all sustainable sources in 2009, the Canadian retailer has made progress in providing all stakeholders and consumers with status of the fisheries it sources from, said Sustainability Senior Director Melanie Agopian at the FIP impact seminar.
"It's not uncommon for our suppliers to come to our buyers and present species that are not certified but from fisheries that are making progress," she said.
Loblaw runs assessments on an annual and bi-annual basis on both current and progressing fisheries.
WWF Canada Fisheries Advisor Janice Ryan noted the 3P Atlantic cod fisheries improvement project (FIP) has met several successes, such as a domestic stock rebuilding strategy, an improved tagging program and most importantly, its entrance into the MSC certification process last March.
The certification process "is going very well right now" and Ryan hopes to have the first MSC-certified cod fishery in Canada by September.
So far it has been "a real learning process.
"We know in the seafood world, there are a lot of mixed messages," Ryan said. The validity from a third party, she said, provides credibility and gives confidence to buyers.
Tuesday, Feb. 10, 11:45 am C.S.T.
The trouble with FIPs
Communicating the success of fisheries improvement project (FIPs) remains a challenge, leading some to question to progress of the efforts.
"Frequently, companies' individual achievements are being rolled into FIP achievements, so it's difficult to see progress of specific companies," said FishWise Project Manager Ethan Lucas.
There are other communication challenges: there are not websites for every FIP and on existing FIP websites and data is scattered or outdated.
Lucas added the very nature of FIPs contributes to the challenge.
"A FIP can be dormant and there and be a legislative change and boom, it's moving and changing really fast," he said.
FishWise and seafood supplier Sea Delight came together to work on a solution to the problem.
Sea Delight looked at FishWise to assist it in analyzing its company's sourcing data, according to Sea Delight Sustainability Coordinator Adriana Sanchez-Lindsay.
The groups developed a system for interviewing industry and NGO partners, researching and tracking company FIP activities, generating documentation and communication materials and more.
"We developed a seafood sustainability policy, which was released today [Tuesday] and provides measurable goals so we can hold ourselves accountable moving forward," Sanchez-Lindsay said.
From a 10-page FIP report, the group was able to condense key points to one page for the public.
The condensed page educates consumers about FIPs and how FIP objectives address conservation efforts. It also includes visuals, a map, a timeline of goals and a date of the last update.
"While still viewing FIPs through a company-specific lens, we found it's very important to document company-specific progress. You can't rely on NGOs to document this for you," but there are tools available to document company-specific progress, Lucas said.
Companies need tailored communication materials because "not all FIPs are created equal," he said. Third-party organizations can assist while companies build internal communication capacities.
"It doesn't mean we solve the problem," Lucas said. There are still ongoing challenges and questions such as: Who should communicate company-specific progress? Was information verified, and by who? How often should information be kept up to date? What information should be displayed?
One issue with FIPs was brought up during a Q&A CeDePesca's Ernesto Godelman: the additional cost.
"Every one of these FIPs are struggling every year with a minimum budget," he said. "We are dealing with low cost FIPs. Oftentimes, they stop paying, and suddenly say they do not have more money or they delay payment.
"The third party certification is just one more cost."Who is going to pay for these costs?" Godelman asked. "I think it's a big burden and I can assure you that most of the FIPs in the south will not be willing to pay that extra cost."
Tuesday, Feb. 10, 11:20 am C.S.T.
Creating a common measuring stick for FIPs
There's no doubt fisheries improvement projects (FIPs) have reached critical mass, both in the level of success transitioning fisheries to better practices, and engaging buyers and the industry to support improvement projects.
"Now that FIPs are getting market recognition, we're seeing a new level of sophistication," Brad Spear of the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership said during a Seafood Summit seminar on assessing FIPs. "It's not enough to just be in a FIP anymore; buyers are asking, 'How much progress is this FIP actually making? Essentially, what has this FIP done for me lately?'"
Seattle Fish Company's Derek Figueroa, whose company is one of the members of SeaPact, a consortium of seafood companies working to engage fisheries in FIPs, said the key to creating metrics for measuring FIP progress is transparency.
"In my mind it looks more like peer-reviewed studies in a medical journal," Figueroa said of showing the industry and public how the FIP assessment process works.
Spear agreed that since no two fisheries are alike, developing common metrics of success is indeed a challenge SFP is working on.
"I can assure you that you cannot measure a FIP progress by smelling a piece of fish," he said. "So there are different metrics we are developing to measure success.
"Since there is so much diversity...being as transparent as possible is what we're striving for."
Tuesday, Feb. 10, 10:45 am C.S.T.
Is shrimp too cheap?
One idea on the table to possibly combat IUU fishing and forced labor in Thailand's shrimp industry is adjusting the cost to the consumer.
"We are literally not paying the price," says EJF’s Steve Trent, adding 15 years ago, shrimp was more of a luxury item than it is today.
"The boat owners, if you look at what it costs them to fish, they can't afford to do it without free labor,” he said.
Although this is not ideal for retailers, "we have to pay more, we have to acknowledge there is a cost to this," Trent said.
Chris Ratto of Safeway-Albertons said this isn’t easy.
"That does create a challenge as a retailer," Ratto said. "If you have a seafood item that is sustainably sourced, there is a premium for that product."
He said when consumers look at competing shrimp prices in ads, their purchasing decisions are often driven by price over sustainability.
Fair Trade USA's Maya Spaull said the market needs to adjust and there needs to be compromise.
"We want to make sure you're in that sweet spot" price-wise and retailers need to tell consumers "why they're spending a little more for that product."
Tuesday, Feb. 10, 10:40 am C.S.T.
Seafish dig in deeper on vessel certification
Established in the UK in 2006, the Seafish Responsible Fishing Scheme (RFS) undertook an extensive modification last year and its standard is being upgraded to attain ISO accreditation status, said Seafish Advocacy Head Libby Woodhatch.
The standard provides oversight of board and work group membership in the supply chain from boat to plate. It's the only global standard that audits compliance on-board fishing vessels, including ethical and welfare criteria.
The goal is to foster safe and healthy working conditions.
"We need evidence of no bondage work labor and other conditions such as sufficient rest periods," said Woodhatch, emphasizing its importance due to fishing being one of the most dangerous lines of work.
Tuesday, Feb. 10, 10:33 am C.S.T.
Bringing sustainability into practice
Implementing sustainable seafood into a retailer’s purchasing systems is not as simple as making a commitment, says Safeway-Albertsons Sustainability Director Chris Ratto.
"Supply chains are extremely complex and mutli-layered. As a retailer, we're just one part of that effort," Ratto said.
Ratto pointed to the group’s partnership with the group Fishwise.
With the NGO’s help, Safeway-Albertson’s deployed a risk assessment tool where problem areas will be assessed with questionnaire data, and the company will be able to identify suppliers who are non-compliant and high risk.
"The objective is to bring about change with our suppliers and put in place mediation plans so we can be part of a supply chain that is free of human trafficking, child labor and forced labor," Ratto said.
The second initiative is educating employees with an e-learning course: "What is human trafficking and which areas are of high risk?"
The firm looks to provide the same training to all its suppliers so they can in turn supply that information their employees.
Other initiatives aim to "pull together stakeholders to come up with an actionable approach" and "bring in products that are sourced responsibly."
Tuesday, Feb. 10, 10:30 am C.S.T.
Keeping consumers engaged
Though consumers want to do the right thing, ultimately they’re going to vote with their purse.
“What is said and the actual actions in some cases can be quite different,” said Safeway/Albertsons Director of Sustainability Chris Ratto. “Consumers are looking for the best price.”
But talking about the benefits and value of why sustainable seafood is important goes a long way, Ratto said.
Fair Trade USA's Maya Spaull said more work needs to be done at the foodservice level.
“How do we get those actors to bring food to the consumers’ plate?” she said.
Libby Woodhatch of Seafish gave a word of caution: seafood consumers should not be frightened away from purchasing and eating seafood, and noted that the “Fish is the Dish” program aims to recruit fish eaters, and then educate them about sustainability.
Stavis Seafoods CEO Richard Stavis agreed: sensational negative coverage of fisheries problems alone is not enough. It can simply make consumers turn away.
“The problem isn’t going to go away,” Stavis said. “We need to create and environment where positive achievements are celebrated.”
Tuesday, Feb. 10, 10:15 am C.S.T.
Looking for accountability
There have been fewer than 10 persecutions in the global seafood sector since the US State Department released the first Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report 14 years ago, says Kendra Kreider, policy advisor for the department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.
"One of the reasons why it’s difficult to identify forced labor is because it doesn’t typically happen at once," she said. Modern day slavery occurs over a period of time and in different areas of the supply chain, not just on the vessel.
She added that of 188 countries, 51 were affected by forced labor, according to the latest TIP report released last June.
Especially the Southeast Asia, the fishing industry sells and coerces workers onto boats through debt bondage, confiscation of identity documents, wage control and death, prison or deportation threats.
Some are "beaten, confined to a boat for months or years," Kreider said.
When investigating Thailand ports, there was a good mount of abuse seen, but "we were introduced to what the good looks like" as well, says Trent.
Speaking to one fishing company owner who has 18 boats, he said to Trent, 'but of course we buy and sell people, how else would we do this?'
"The scope and scale of this problem" casts a wide net. It's not going to help retailers very much by targeting them, Trent said.
"We can track it back to the stores here, but in Thailand it's really a different ballgame."
Tuesday, Feb. 10, 10:00 am C.S.T.
One more eco-label enters the fray
Bumble Bee Seafoods-owned Anova is the sponsor of the world’s first Fair Trade fishery – an Indonesian yellowfin tuna fishery.
Fair Trade USA’s Maya Spaull said the group began working on bringing the Fair Trade system into the seafood space four years ago.
“We wanted to understand how Fair Trade could influence things,” she said.
The Fair Trade system differs from other eco-label programs, Spaull said, in that fishermen actually receive a percentage of the profit.
In addition, the Fair Trade logo – which has a consumer recognition in the US of 55 percent – will influence decision-making in the marketplace.
Safeway-Albertsons will begin selling the Fair Trade tuna in March.
Tuesday, Feb. 10, 9:30 am C.S.T.
A structural issue
The architecture of the seafood sector drives human trafficking in Southeast Asia, says Environmental Justice Foundation Executive Director Steve Trent. Ninety percent or more in the sector are undocumented migrant workers and most are non-Thai.
"That's the first pressure point," he said. "They are taken advantage of it and it's those individuals that we're finding are taken to extreme levels of abuse. I have never witnessed what we have seen in Thailand."
Trent said there are numerous reports of people being beaten, violently abused and those who have witnessed murders.
"Solving the problem is going to be very hard," Trent said: it's difficult to provide labor for an industry that has $7.9 billion of seafood exports.
"They say they have to employ slaves or they would not be profitable," Trent said. "It's not just the human rights abuses: much of the product you're receiving is IUU fish."
He added that although retailers have acknowledged the issue, the next step is to "collaboratively solve the problem."
Humanity United Investments VP Ed Marcum said the industry needs to "move away from documentation and move toward a solution."
However, one of the hurdles is that this is a "very complex problem" and "there are systematic problems in the industry because it benefits from it."
Tuesday, Feb. 10, 9:15 am C.S.T.
A stain on seafood
The Seafood Summit opened it's second day talking about perhaps the biggest problem facing the seafood industry apart from IUU -- human trafficking in fisheries.
Though Thailand was the main target last year with The Guardian expose on the shrimp feed sector, Fair Trade USA's Maya Spaull pointed out that human trafficking in fisheries goes beyond just Thailand.
"This is a global problem in fisheries around the world," Spaull said.
EJF's Steve Trent agreed.
"It is everywhere," he said. "Wherever you look you'll be able to find this."
Monday, Feb. 9, 4:00 pm C.S.T.
Retailers need help
Aldin Hilbrands of Dutch retailer Royal Ahold reminded the audience at the Seafood Summit’s changing landscape of sustainable seafood panel: retailers can’t know it all.
“People should realize we are generalists, we have to worry about 10,000 unique different products,” he said. “We can’t be an expert in all those products.
“It’s the industry that has to come up with a vision and do the right thing.”
Take Thailand, he pointed out.
“It’s far, far away from us,” he said. “The challenge here is that the problems are not in the factory, but higher up in the supply chain.”
That means seafood companies have to get far better at implementing traceability systems.
“Supply chain mapping sounds boring, but…you have to know what your supplier base looks like,” Hildbrand said.
Monday, Feb. 9, 3:30 pm C.S.T.
There is a greater opportunity for shared ideas in a vertically integrated aquaculture company in terms of technology transfer and development.
“If the farmer identifies a weakness ... then you can bring that to the service and manufacturing part of the business,” said Cooke VP of Communications Nell Halse.
University of Stirling’s David Little added, “it’s usually farmers and producers that make the make the breakthroughs,” citing developments in the pangasius industry.
GAP’s Daniel Lee said that while there are major research advances being made in aquaculture sectors, “many small producers can’t afford to buy the innovation,” said Sebastian Belle of the Maine Aquaculture Association, suggesting NGOs should assist smaller producers to invest in new innovations.
“That is an aggressive engineering project, but the alternative is you have to wait for the sector to mature until you have larger players that can make that investment,” he said.
Little agreed, noting that farmers “are nibbling away at incremental improvements” and need the aid from larger companies in Europe and North America.
People want to make more money and if given the opportunity, farmers will take new technology and “add value to it,” said Little.
Farmers tend to learn off each other and the industry needs to find a way to connect with farmers, "whether it’s internet-based or smart phones or how you work with farmers and small producers," he added.
Monday, Feb. 9, 3:15 pm C.S.T.
Bringing it all back home
University of Stirling’s David Little noted the dissatisfaction among those in the European and US aquaculture that so much of warmwater finfish is not being grown on their own soil.
"These products are grown where people can make the most money," Little said, and that is overseas, where low-cost labor rules.
Environment is of course one of the largest factors, Maine Aquaculture Association’s Sebastian Belle said, with warmer environments more conducive to growing a much broader diversity of species.
Belle said while “new” coldwater species such as cod have had mixed results, aquatic plants in the industry are "starting to take off in other parts of the world."
And the positive production characteristics of seaweed or kelp, such as short production cycles and high growth rates could provide an opportunity for western countries.
"That's an area you may see expansion on in Europe and North America," Belle said.
However, aquaculture production is still a challenge for Western countries, especially with the high cost of product development and an uncertainty of what consumers truly want in domestic aquaculture.
Monday, Feb. 9, 3:00 pm C.S.T.
Born in the US, sold in Vietnam, and vice versa
Stirling University Institute of Aquaculture Professor David Little brought up an interesting reality: aquaculture is more global than we sometimes realize.
Is pangasius truly Asian? "It's fed on American grain," he noted.
An interesting thing to think about when the next round of antidumping duties against Vietnam come up.
Monday, Feb. 9, 2:45 pm C.S.T.
It takes a village
Panelists on Monday afternoon's sustainable aquaculture seminar gave their two cents on the greatest opportunities for improvements in aquaculture production.
“It’s impossible to do business in the aquaculture today without a lot of emphasis on community engagement,” says Cooke Aquaculture VP Communications Nell Halse. “It’s not optional anymore” and companies need to talk to communities.
The place for companies to differentiate themselves is not in the communities but in the marketplace, she added.
Maine Aquaculture Association Executive Director Sebastian Belle spoke on the notion of community in the Maine marine industry.
“We are all part of the working waterfront,” he said of fishing and aquaculture. “If you lose waterfront to condominiums, you never get it back -- we have to help each other.”
Belle mentioned the formation of a Maine waterfront coalition to lobby for tax breaks, which “has changed the political landscape.” He also noted the unique dichotomy between seasonal wealthy residents and year-round residents who “have to find a way to make a living or leave the community.”
“It was not that way 35 years ago,” but coastal communities have realized that aquaculture is a tool they can use to build a resilient future.
Monday, Feb. 9, 2:15 pm C.S.T.
Feeding the problem
The issue of feed sustainability is perhaps the most challenging one facing the industry.
Only last year the Thai slavery scandal exploded, and had massive ramifications up and down the shrimp aquaculture sector.
GAA’s Daniel Lee said the aquaculture industry certainly has the heft to influence practices, but “we haven’t cracked it yet.”
“How does the aquaculture industry and the supply chain get to work and lever its influence?” he said. “We don’t have the pieces in place at the moment.”
Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) Chief Executive Chris Ninnes said the industry needs to step into the fray on the issue.
“Ultimately, it’s about the sustainability of the actual main ingredient,” he said. “We have to take collective ownership of that problem.”
In addition to the social challenges of some of the suppliers of the marine ingredients in feed, there is also criticism over the impact on the resources themselves.
David Little, with the University of Stirling, said the industry is “overly defensive” about the usage of fishmeal, given the strides made to reduce fishmeal usage in feed.
“The industry is doing all the right things to make the sector more efficient,” he said.
Lee pointed out outdated feed conversion ratio data is falling by the wayside as new research shows that the FCR has dropped down dramatically, and with full utilization of the byproducts of fish such as tilapia, aquaculture can be a net fishmeal producer.
“The story of aquaculture not producing food has been totally debunked – I think it’s the most significant achievement we’ve made,” Lee said.
Monday, Feb. 9, 2:00pm C.S.T.
Blame it on shrimp
Stirling University Institute of Aquaculture Professor Dave Little noted the shrimp industry has faced “wave after wave of damaging disease events” over the past several years that undermine its growth but the industry needs to “maintain growth over a longer period despite that… if it’s not EMS, it’s another pathogen.”
He added the recent disease issues shows “a failure to work together among the countries in Asia.”
GAA Coordinator Dan Lee agreed that there is “work to be done in Asia,” but “these are all good lessons, there is an opportunity there for regulators, NGOs and producers to collaborate.”
Monday, Feb. 9, 11:55 am C.S.T.
Recruiting some help
So who can help aquaculture reach the promised land?
For GAA's Wally Stevens, the biggest need is the influx of Wall Street money – which will come provided disease issues are handled and can quell their concerns.
“We’ve got to deal with some of these issues to attract investment support,” Stevens said.
For Chef Barton Seaver, fostering the sector will be chefs embracing aquaculture as part of the local movement.
“Chefs all of the sudden are empowered to use local seafood,” Seaver said.
With proper availability, chefs can use "romance" to help create a positive image of aquaculture products.
For Rubino, it’s about supporting innovation, particularly with the risk so high.
“How do we support the pioneers? Everyone wants to be first to be second,” he said.
That said, the future looks excellent for shellfish and seafood, he adeed.
“Whether we produce more finfish depends on all these regulatory and social issues,” Rubino said.
Monday, Feb. 9, 11:40 am C.S.T.
Growing in the right way
So how do we push sustainable aquaculture growth? GAA's Wally Stevens says leveling out the production playing field is key.
Southeast Asia takes claim on most of the world's production but "science and technology have tremendous influence on where production occurs."
Technology will allow the United States to develop its aquaculture industry, decreasing dependence on Southeast Asia, he added. He also added education as an important component moving forward.
"It's always about informing folks about challenges before they have to react to them," such as disease issues.
NOAA's Michael Rubino elaborated on technology, adding the industry does not have "marine whitefish that is grown in large volumes in aquaculture."
He said the industry should look at species that will "grow well in a tank."
Chef Barton Seaver echoed the sentiment, saying the US has pushed consumption into "a very irrational corner. We as a consumer eat only a few select species instead of asking the ocean what species it can sustainably supply."
The aquaculture industry should integrate new species that farm well, Barton said. "We have a responsibility to consume sustainably just as much as we have a responsibility to produce sustainably."
Monday, Feb. 9, 11:30 am C.S.T.
Aquaculture: Look at the bigger picture
Incorporating civic values into the larger conversation of sustainability was the main point in a passionate speech from Barton Seaver, chef and director of Healthy and Sustainable Food Program at Harvard School of Public Health.
"Fish to Fork" is a website that ranks chefs and restaurants on how green their seafood choices are, one to five forks. Seaver’s rating dropped from 5 to a 4 forks when he started serving fish with a high feed conversion ratio and therefore was not considered sustainable.
However, he argued in choosing that fish, “there are dozens of jobs created in a community where poverty and unemployment are rampant,” and this perspective should be included in the larger context of the sustainable seafood movement.
Seaver added he’s not opposed to sustainable seafood as a biological principle, which is “absolutely fundamental,” but “in this country farming is part of the underpinnings of our social fabric.”
Seafood is part of a human economic system, “part of dinner, part of our joy and our communities.”
He pushed the need to integrate this thinking into the conversation.
Seaver said the seafood industry, NGOs and aquaculture industry “must combine ourselves with the larger dialogue of food in this country."
Compared to land-based protein, “seafood starts to look pretty good” and the anchovy volume in pig and chicken feed is high and a “significant impact on those industries.”
And although the seafood industry has started a public dialogue, there is still much confusion.
“People go to a fish counter, get confused and go straight over to the ground beef, which has a much larger carbon footprint,” he said, adding that there is still a lack of omega 3s in consumer diets.
Monday, Feb. 9, 11:15 am C.S.T.
GAA’s Wally Stevens was honest about aquaculture’s failure to connect with the rest of the world on its benefits.
“We’ve done a good job marginalizing ourselves,” Stevens said. “We marginalized NGOs, we marginalized academic communities – shame on us.”
With millions around the world needing employment, aquaculture is a key potential solution for both jobs and food, and that will require more than just the aquaculture industry alone.
“The only way to create future opportunities is to do it together, and that involves trust,” Stevens said. “The commodity of trust comes from being open and transparent in communication.”
Monday, Feb. 9, 11:15 am C.S.T.
Tipping point in US aquaculture?
Michael Rubino, Director, Office of Aquaculture, NOAA, said he would start his talk on US aquaculture with some good news. And he did.
At a recent Northeast aquaculture conference, he said, more than 500 people registered to attend, and half the room was under the age of 40.
“It was really heartening,” he said.
“There’s a generational change taking place in the way we produce seafood.”
As an example, marine aquaculture is now the third largest most important seafood producer in the Northeast region behind lobster and scallops. Its value grew from 2012 to 2013 by $60 million – more than the overall value of groundfish for the full year.
“Something’s happening here,” Rubino said. “Are we at that proverbial tipping point in aquaculture in this country?”
Aquaculture is increasingly seen as a solution for coastal communities and to keep working waterfronts going in the US, he added.
Monday, Feb. 9, 10:06 am C.S.T.
Pushing US aquaculture
Building and developing the aquaculture industry in the US as well as its economic impact was stressed in this morning’s opening keynote at Seafood Summit with Kathryn Sullivan, NOAA administrator and under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere.
“The US struggles to maintain a foothold” in aquaculture, which is potentially a huge job creator in "coastal communities and throughout the seafood supply chain," said Sullivan.
The US exports advance technology, feed, equipment and jobs to other producers around the world that are more "aquaculture friendly."
"Let's put a stop to that" and increase production in US waters and public awareness of its importance to US sustainable seafood portfolio, she said.
Fostering domestic aquaculture will support “food supply and year-round living wage jobs in rural coastal communities." US aquaculture industry was valued at $1.3 billion (€1.1 billion) in 2011 compared to $5.1 billion (€4.5 billion) for commercial catch that same year.
Going forward, as "global abundance of human beings rises," fish stocks remain flat;. The world population will increase about 28 percent in the next 25 years, thus more consumption from aquaculture will only continue to grow. Sullivan added half of US seafood consumption is from aquaculture, "but most of it is imported."
Monday, Feb. 9, 10:00 am C.S.T.
Disease: Still the biggest issue
GAA Executive Director Wally Stevens opened up the aquaculture impact discussion with poll results from past conferences showing an overwhelming number voting health and disease management as the largest issue facing aquaculture.
“Disease continues to be a very dramatic challenge facing aquaculture,” said Stevens.
He referenced the previous EMS epidemic that plagued shrimp production.
“It’s all about a disease and not understanding how to deal with that particular disease,” he said.
Monday, Feb. 9, 9:20 am C.S.T.
Go forth and network
SeaWeb founder Dawn Martin opened the summit from the pulpit by laying a philosophical view of the sustainable seafood sector two years after the last event.
“We believe collectively and individually that we can do better,” Martin said of the event’s attendees.
Seafood companies, NGOs and governments are piled into a full room ready to get started, and Martin encouraged them to make the connections to make change happen.
“Whatever your focus, we hope you leave here even more empowered and resolved than ever to do even more,” she said.
The questions over the future of the summit now seem to be answered with the involvement of the conference pros at Diversified, but Martin said SeaWeb will be more present at other events.
“Meeting once a year is a hard way to drive change, so we must look for additional ways to meet between summits,” she said.
Monday, Feb. 9, 9:12 am C.S.T.
Big time spenders
The Seafood Summit was able to draw some marquis seafood companies to lend their money and their signage. Seafish UK is among the biggest sponsor, and their “Responsible Fishing: It’s Catching” campaign is all over.
Cooke is highlighting its True North Salmon. Gulf Coast Seafood, CPort and High Liner Foods have their names scattered about as well.
Monday, Feb. 9, 9:09 am C.S.T.
Well, one thing’s clear: the seafood industry has come into some money. Or at least it would appear so. The Grand Hyatt hotel in downtown New Orleans is pretty swank, and you see a lot more ties than tie dye.
I’m not saying I expected a giant yurt or anything, but this is certainly higher end than I expected for a conference targeted at NGOs.
Sunday, Feb. 8, 6:00 pm C.S.T.
New Orleans was sunny and breezy when the 2015 Seafood Summit kicked off with a pre-conference workshop. The workshop honed in on IUU fishing and seafood fraud and the development and implementation of traceability systems.
“The environmental NGOs bring a lot of science to the floor to help us work on solutions for some of the problems in aquaculture,” High Liner Foods Sustainability Director Bill DiMento said.
“This summit really brings together industry retailers, academics and NGOs to talk about moving improvements forward from an environmental standpoint.
During the workshop, Industry representatives and stakeholders went over best practices for effective seafood traceability solutions and participants discussed proposed key data elements to identify seafood sources.
“It’s a great chance to collaborate with the scientists as well as government regulators and our industry peers,” he said.