2015 SeaWeb Seafood Summit – In Search of Solutions

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The 2015 annual SeaWeb Sustainable Seafood Summit kicked off on February 9 in New Orleans. This yearly event brings a wide variety of people together to discuss the various issues that impact seafood, both farmed and wild.  Our Vice President of Strategic Purchasing and Responsible Sourcing Logan Kock and our Marketing Manager Mary Smith both attended the event.

This year’s conference opened with a keynote from Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, NOAA Administrator and Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere. Dr. Sullivan was one of the first 6 women selected to join the NASA astronaut corps and not only has she walked in space, she completed 3 shuttle missions!

However, her focus is clearly on the planet. She spoke of the need for resiliency. Resiliency in our fishing communities, economic resilience and our need to remain resilient to natural disasters as well.  Dr. Sullivan reminded us that to find this resiliency we need to invest in technology that provides the background information for our scientific intelligence.

Focusing on Domestic Aquaculture

Despite all the advancements and positive news on our domestic fisheries, climate change and habitat loss are still huge challenges. The population of the planet is rising while fish abundance is not. Since our planet’s capture fisheries are stagnant, aquaculture will need to fill the gap.

Dr. Sullivan reminded us that US aquaculture is a job creator in coastal communities but it needs to play a larger role.  She described domestic aquaculture as “a bright spot that we should continue to nurture”.  You can learn more about NOAA’s Gulf Aquaculture Plan here.

Regulatory uncertainty makes it hard for fish and shellfish farmers to gain a foothold here in the US. We export our technology and expertise to other, aquaculture friendly countries. We agree with Dr. Sullivan that we need a robust strategy to continue to develop responsible aquaculture in our own country.  

The Fight Against IUU Fishing

Dr. Sullivan also updated us on efforts to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. She reviewed recently released NOAA Report (which you can learn more about here) that identified six countries (Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Nigeria, Nicaragua, and Portugal) as engaging in illegal fishing activity.

Following Dr. Sullivan’s keynote, we heard more from two members of the Presidential Task Force on Combating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing and Seafood Fraud. Mr. Russell Smith, Deputy Assistant Secretary International Fisheries, NOAA and Sally Yozell, Senior Advisor, Office of the Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy and Environment, U.S. Department of State spoke to us on a variety of issues.

As you know, Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing undermines our stewardship investments, causes huge economic losses, hurts law abiding fishermen and needs to be battled full force.

Both Yozell and Smith spoke of collaboration.  International NGO’s, Industry and Governments must work together to fight IUU fishing.

They discussed a variety of recommendations:

Internal recommendations:
  • The Port State Measures agreement treaty should be implemented globally
  • Best practices need to be in place at RFMO’s
  • Maritime Domain Awareness
  • Use existing Free Trade Agreements
  • End Fisheries subsidies that contribute to excess fishing capacity
  • Capacity building – work to prioritize sustainable fisheries management
  • Diplomacy – make IUU fishing a diplomatic priority
Enforcement Recommendations
  • Further interagency info sharing – departments must share data
  • Customs – use of “Customs Mutual Assistance Agreements” to exchange relevant information
  • Seafood Names and Tariff codes “Standardize & Clarify”
  • State and local coordination
  • work with congress to broaden agency enforcement authorities.
  • Partnership Forum to enhance collaboration with harvesters, importers, dealers, retailers, processors and NGO’s
Traceability Recommendations
  • Identify and develop a list of the types of information and operational standards that should be used to develop a traceability system
  • Then implement the first phase of that system

The Task Force is busy reviewing public comments now, and developing a Task Force Report with implementation steps. There will be continuing Stakeholder engagement at the Boston Seafood Show.

If you want to learn more, please check out the Presidential Task Force webpage here.

And that was just the first day!

…actually we hadn’t even had lunch yet.  Our next blog post will bring you highlights of a variety of presentations and discussions that we participated in, stay tuned!

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