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Sustainable Seafood Summit

In Sustained Seas continued quest to Sustainability we attended the Sustainable Seafood Multi-Stakeholders summit in San Francisco to further our Education: 

procedure, both time consuming and aggravating, did not sit well and so our journey for a Definition began.

 

Studying as many NGO’s as possible, it was obvious that many had very good intentions and all were very similar but all were formed to fit their own objectives.   After reviewing hundreds of definitions and lists of “good fish” and “bad fish” it seemed that no matter where we looked no one could agree and everyone seemed to feel their list and definition was the best.

 

Subscribing to the MSC gives Samuels a scientific backing to sustainable fish.  As a member we are able to sell their certified fish under their eco label and be part of their chain of custody.  The MSC does a great job of traceability which is the starting grounds to a sustainable program.  If you can trace the fish from the water to the door you know how the fish was caught, what waters it came from and how and where it was transported and handled.  With this information you can make responsible decisions on where to purchase the fish and ultimately source your product from quality fisheries, eliminating those less responsible.  The MSC acts as a networking tool in that they can provide distributors such as Samuels and Son Seafood with contacts to fisheries they monitor and insure are sustainable.  So does that insure that I am a sustainable seafood vendor?  Will the oceans be around for my children and theirs? Not exactly.  My next question was what about the seafood that the MSC does not certify?  As a distributor, if I were to stop selling farm raised salmon and live Maine Lobsters, just two of many items the MSC does not certify, my business would surely suffer.  So what do I do now?  The current economic situation presents us with an excellent opportunity to exercise our right to traceability.  If we give support to the companies who can trace their product back to the water it gives incentive to the boats and other processors and distributors to do the same.

 

 

-Trevor Gustafson

Samuels and Son Seafood

Sustained Seas Coordinator

There I sat, in a room filled with 40 of the most educated Sustainable Seafood experts from around the world.  The director of Friends of the Sea just in front of me, Lake Victoria Fisheries in Uganda behind me, the MSC to my right and Greenpeace to my left along with 33 other experts waiting to speak and collaborate on what we need to do to achieve a Sustainable Seafood Industry.  For two days we locked ourselves in a room and spoke about rising issues, things we have done in the past, political battles and even argued between organizations about what was the right and wrong thing to do.  This was the first time a spectrum of people of this magnitude have sat in one room and collaborated.  At times I felt overwhelmed by where other parts of the world were in this journey and it was amazing to see how far behind the east coast is from the rest of the world.  But I was also encouraged.  The steps Samuels has taken and plan to take are the same steps that Europeans, west coast, and now Canadian distributors have taken and been successful in making a difference.

 

 

big question.  As a vendor to hundreds of restaurants and retail markets I understand that Samuels is a very large part of Sustainable Seafood.  If we source from responsible fisheries and not from irresponsible ones we can make a large difference.  We don’t have to support any of the organizations in the room (even though we have) but I see that after attending this summit, the money will be well spent.  Scientific research has become the backbone and overall enforcer in this industry.  We now know what is good to source and what we should avoid.  But what else can we do to further develop sustainability on the east coast?

 

The first answer was given by the MSC.  Jim Humphrey’s, the Fisheries Director of the Americas agreed that traceability can and will make this program work.  He acknowledged the fact that the MSC only certifies wild fisheries and also explained that because of the size of the industry fisheries that might be sustainable are not yet certified under the MSC standards.  It takes a great deal of time and energy to certify the fisheries, but the thorough procedures followed make the MSC credible.  He also pointed me in the direction of a few other certifiers including the ASC or Aqua Culture Stewardship Council which will be unveiling its logo in 2011 along with its list of Sustainable Aquaculture.

 

The second answer came from Chuck Anderson, a former Ahold director of seafood.  He went on to say that in his experience promoting the good and taking red list items out of ad are a great place to start with the retailers.  Suggest ads with the sustainable items and market them accordingly.  Start to label the items.  Not only what country they come from and if they are wild or farm raised but how they were caught and what exact body of water they come from.  This will give the customer confidence in the product and help persuade them to make responsible decisions.

On my flight back to Philadelphia I reflected on the Summit.  Going in I was looking for a direct path to sustainability with clear cut guidelines.  Leaving, I now know that this wave of the future is going to be a Journey, not a destination.

Sea Lions on the docks at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco

Acknowledging this, organizations have formed to help restore our oceans by enforcing guidelines they have put in place.  MSC, FOS, ACC are acronyms for some of these organizations that you hear of more often and all of which have one common goal; preserving what we have today for tomorrow.  Sustainable Seafood, a common buzzword in our industry, has been the term we use but ironically, there is no clear cut meaning.  There is no definition for the term and no government organization to enforce it.  So what do we do?

Over time, demand for seafood has increased and consequently fisheries have been depleted.  Simply put, we are too good at catching fish and greed has caused morals to be put aside and our oceans jeopardized.  In the beginning no one believed they would catch the last fish but the once inconceivable thought has become more and more a harsh reality.

The San Francisco Aquarium, just one of many aquariums campaigning to protect Bays and Oceans

On October 20th I attended the Sustainability Summit Meeting in San Francisco to see what the industry was doing to preserve our oceans and better understand this undefined term.  As a Seafood wholesaler we are asked the question every day “is this fish sustainable?”  The answer was a yes or a no.  As people began to educate themselves however the answer became, “To which definition are you referring?”  Frustrated, the salespeople would go back to their customer trying to find out exactly what the customer was looking for and how they could better help them.  This

From Right to Left: Chuck Anderson (Ahold), Paulo Bray (Friend of the Sea), Grimur Valdimarsson (FAO), Jim Humphreys (MSC), David Valleau (Lusamerica Foods), Nadia Bouffard (Dept. Fisheries and Oceans Can.), Fraser Rieche (Calkins and Burke)

At the end of the Summit we recapped some of the highlights of the meeting and then the stakeholders had one last opportunity to bring up anything they wanted to talk about or felt had been missed.  What do I do next?  I raised my hand for the microphone and the floor was mine.  I started by explaining who I was and what I did in the seafood industry.  I expressed a few of my concerns and then asked the