Industry veteran and pioneer Howard Johnson died June 17 after a four-year battle with cancer. He was 80 years old.

Johnson's seafood career spanned more than 40 years, and his passion for seafood sustainability issues cemented his legacy as one of the industry's most respected and foward-thinking leaders.

In 2012, Johnson retired from his role as as director of Global Programs for the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP).

He had been with SFP since its founding as a non-profit organization in 2006. Prior to joining SFP, Johnson was president of H.M. Johnson and Associates, a leading seafood industry research and analysis firm he founded in 1985.

He was an ardent supporter of the global seafood industry and helped bridge the gap between environmental groups and the seafood sector.

He summed up his approach to uniting the two groups in 2007 when he told IntraFish: “I’ve done a lot of work over the years with certain conservation groups like World Wildlife Fund, Seafood Choices Alliance and some of those, but always with a caveat that I wasn’t going to develop tactics to destroy the industry. I would just like to look back and say I created solutions not problems.”

During his four-decades-long seafood career, Johnson was active in seafood procurement in Southeast Asia and aquaculture development in the United States, Mexico, Chile, and Brazil. He also founded and published the "Annual Report on the United States Seafood Industry," a respected information source for 18 years.

In 2010, Johnson was named a Purpose Prize Fellow for his work with problematic fisheries in a number of countries to help develop and implement sustainability strategies.

That same year, he was chosen as a Seafood Champion by the Seafood Choices Alliance for his work in helping the seafood industry and NGOs work together.

He spoke regularly at major international seafood conferences and events, and was a respected industry voice.

"Howard saw the importance of sustainability back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, before most in the seafood industry," Jim Cannon, CEO of SFP, told IntraFish.

"It was a privilege to see him in action, and he should be recognized for helping shape the donor strategies and early industry-NGO partnerships that created the sustainable seafood movement we have today," Cannon said.

"When Howard left SFP in 2012 we created an award in his honor, affectionally known as 'The HoJo,' which is given annually to recognize an individual staff member "who mirrors the integrity, character, and exemplifies the leadership and innovation that Howard M. Johnson contributed over many years to SFP.”

After retiring, he and his wife, Sharon, co-founded Rebuilding Together Rogue Valley ,volunteering throughout southern Oregon to help vulnerable older adults live more independently.

He graduated from Central Washington University with a degree in political science and served in the United States Marine Corps. He was a deep cover operative with the Central Intelligence Agency in the early 1970s and a Weyerhaeuser timber executive in the early 1980s before launching his consulting firm.

He is survived by Sharon Johnson, his wife of 38 years, and his children Ward Johnson, Jennifer Baisa (Wilson), Elisabeth Youhanic (Dean); his grandchildren Sydney Cervantes, Isabella Johnson, Sarah Johnson, Alex Youhanic, and Jordan Baisa; step-grandchildren Jasmyn Baisa and Jaelyn Baisa; and sisters Barbara Brodhead and Gerri Rene.