Blog

FishWise at Ceres Conference 2017

Created on Monday, 19 June 2017

From left to right: Panelists Mariah Boyle, Jonas Kron, and Michael Conathan.

In late April, FishWise’s Traceability Division Director Mariah Boyle attended the 2017 Ceres Conference in San Francisco. Bringing together more than 600 investors and company leaders, the two-day conference focuses on corporate sustainability and catalyzing change. Mariah presented at the breakout session Is Your Product Against the Law? Insights on Illegality in Supply Chains that looked at the illegal activity in seafood and forest-related products, the potential human rights abuses that can go hand in hand with such activities, and the attention that is needed at all levels of supply chains to address these issues. Moderated by David Bennell, Program Director for Food & Capital Markets Initiative at Ceres, Mariah was joined by panelists Michael Conathan, Director of Ocean Policy at the Center for American Progress, and Jonas Kron, Senior Vice President and Director of Shareholder Advocacy at Trillium Asset Management.

Bringing her expertise in seafood supply chains, Mariah provided an overview of the different steps within these chains and how this complexity can obscure potential illegal activities and human rights abuses. Some 660 to 820 million people (9-12% of the global population) are dependent on the seafood sector for their livelihoods, according to UN estimates. This, coupled with the fact that seafood is among the most traded food commodities, shows how important it is to improve the legality and sustainability related to seafood.

Fortunately, resources exist for investors and companies that want to tackle these issues. Mariah presented an overview of next steps, including a robust sustainability framework and FishWise’s white papers. The Common Vision for Sustainable Seafood, created by the Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions, is a realistic six-step process to develop and implement a sustainable seafood policy. Additionally, for newcomers and those already invested alike, FishWise’s white papers on social responsibility and traceability in seafood supply chains provide comprehensive guidance on guidance and next steps companies can take to improve their work on these issues.

“It’s obvious from this conference that investors are bearing in mind the environmental, social and governance issues in supply chains,” Mariah said. “Similar to sustainability issues like climate change, we must take a long-term, or multi-generational view, to this topic.”

However, Mariah stresses that waiting to get started is not an option. She suggests that investors engage with companies, ask about the details of their sustainable seafood policies – what their time-bound commitments look like, if they are reporting publicly on progress, and disclosing information about their supply chains. Ask what due diligence measures they have in place to reduce the risk of illegality, and encourage those that are on the right path. Doing so can catalyze further change, and encourage more companies to do the same, working toward a more just, socially and environmentally sustainable future.

FishWise at Surf Market’s 5th Annual Sustainable Seafood Festival

Created on Tuesday, 30 May 2017

In honor of Earth Day on April 22nd, FishWise was grateful to be able to participate once again in Surf Market’s Sustainable Seafood Festival. This was the 5th annual festival for Surf Market, hosted at their charming store in picturesque Gualala. Pronounced “wa-LA-la” and just a daytrip north of San Francisco, this small town is situated on the Sonoma Mendocino Coast and is home to jazz festivals, migrating whales, and numerous resident artists and craftspeople.

FishWise project managers Meg Songer and Traci Linder enjoyed an afternoon fielding many considerate questions regarding sustainable seafood, teaching children about seafood through interactive activities, and inviting passersby to play FishWise’s educationally-themed beanbag toss game ‘cornhole.’ This year, Jennifer Bushman, spokesperson for Verlasso salmon, led a few entertaining and informative cooking demonstrations on how to properly prepare responsibly sourced seafood dishes. FishWisers were even invited by Surf Market’s gracious owner and hosts Steve, Kelly, and Caroline to post-festival celebrations at nearby St. Orres. As always, FishWise is eagerly anticipating our next collaboration with Surf Market.

Since 2006, Surf Market has partnered with FishWise to provide educational materials and sustainable seafood options to their customers. This partnership has allowed Surf Market to strengthen its commitment to sustainability and ocean conservation. The retailer’s annual Sustainable Seafood Festival helps to engage and educate the local community about sustainable seafood options.

Missing at Sea: The Dangers Faced by Fisheries Observers

Created on Thursday, 25 May 2017

PC: Mark Garrison/Hakai Magazine

On September 10th 2015, a Taiwanese fishing vessel conducted a transshipment of tuna to the Panamanian flagged refrigerated vessel MV Victoria, roughly 500 miles off the coast of Peru. The transshipment was being observed by the MV Victoria’s U.S. fisheries observer Keith Davis. A crewman aboard the Taiwanese fishing vessel witnessed Keith Davis observing the transshipment of tuna at roughly 2:50 PM. Ten minutes later Keith Davis couldn’t be found. A search was soon conducted by the MV Victoria, which ended 72 hours later. His body was never found.

Fisheries observers are often cited as a way to verify that fishing is done both ethically and sustainably. However, the significant risk that observers put themselves in when conducting their duties is less well known. Isolated far from shore in international waters and dependent on the crew of the vessel, observers are in a particularly vulnerable positon when they witness a fishing violation that the vessel operator doesn’t want reported. As a result, observers may be pressured, harassed, threatened, or possibly assaulted by vessel operators in order to prevent them from recording illegal activity. In the face of such risks, it is often difficult for observers to act as a safeguard against unsustainable and unethical fishing.

Tragically, threats by fishing vessel operators to observers are sometimes carried out, and many have been murdered or declared missing under mysterious circumstances. The case of Keith Davis is just one of many cases of fisheries observers from around the world who have disappeared under circumstances that most experts would classify as suspicious at a minimum. Keith Davis’s death was all the more shocking as he, along with other observers, had worked tirelessly to highlight the risks that observers face in the line of duty, compiling a list of incidences of threats, assaults, and murder of fisheries observers at sea.

Even when proof exists that a fisheries observer was threatened, assaulted, or even murdered, suspects are rarely prosecuted due to the lack of laws and regulations governing crime aboard fishing vessels operating on the high seas. The case of Keith Davis is sadly no different, with jurisdiction over the disappearance eventually given to the flag state, Panama, who lacked the capacity to conduct a full investigation and concluded that the cause of the tragedy was unknown. Although the crew of the MV Victoria were replaced, none were ever charged with Keith Davis’s disappearance.

To better protect fisheries observers in the face of such threats, many are calling for reform to improve their safety. This can include an independent form of communication (such as a satellite phone) that observers can use to call for assistance, and emergency action plans that establish protocols to assist observers when they feel threatened. One Regional Fisheries Management Organization (RFMO), the Western and Central Pacific Tuna Commission, has enacted some significant necessary reforms and made them mandatory as of early 2017. It is of ever greater importance for all RFMO’s to follow suit and to enact further reforms to protect fisheries observers at sea. Only then can fisheries observers truly fulfill their role of verifying sustainable and ethical fishing, and helping to deter illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing.

While the highlighted case involves a U.S. fisheries observer it is important to be aware that the issue of fisheries observer safety is a global one regardless of nationality. Fishery management plans around the world should take into consideration the safety of fisheries observers and their crucial role in achieving sustainable fishing.

For more information about this event, please read the article “The Mysterious Disappearance of Keith Davis.”

To learn more about reforms that can improve observer safety, see the “Association for Professional Observer’s International Observer Bill of Rights.”

Status of IUU Nations Carded by European Commission

Created on Wednesday, 24 May 2017

As part of FishWise’s ongoing efforts to track news related to illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, we are closely monitoring updates to the European Commission’s IUU watch list.

The European Commission (EC) issues yellow cards and red cards to nations that have not taken sufficient action to control IUU activity in their waters or by their flagged vessels. Yellow cards serve as a formal warning to countries that the Commission wants to see time-bound improvement in their anti-IUU governance, while a red card can include economic sanctions and trade measures. Countries that have been yellow carded have six months to show improved structural and legal reforms to their fisheries management, monitoring, and enforcement systems. If the EC decides a country has made insufficient progress after six months, the country will be given a red card and potentially banned from importing fishery products into the European Union.

Nations with red cards:

  • Cambodia
  • Comoros
  • Saint Vincent & Grenadines

 

Nations with yellow cards:

  • Kiribati
  • Liberia
  • Saint Kitts & Nevis
  • Sierra Leone
  • Taiwan
  • Thailand
  • Trinidad and Tobego
  • Tuvalu

 

The following nations were previously carded but have made credible progress in improving their fisheries governance and combatting IUU, and have subsequently been removed from the EC’s IUU watch list:

  • Belize
  • Fiji
  • Ghana
  • Guinea
  • Panama
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Philippines
  • South Korea
  • Sri Lanka
  • Togo
  • Vanuatu
  • Curacao
  • Solomon Islands

 

For further details about the European Commission’s anti-IUU fishing program, please see the Commission’s news page.

Sustainable Seafood at 20 – Oceans of Progress

Created on Thursday, 11 May 2017

FishWise and our seafood stakeholder partners are celebrating 20 years of change and progress in the sustainable seafood movement. This movement got its start in the mid-1990s, and the 20-year mark is a great time to look back at the impact of our work together and the challenges that will define sustainable seafood’s future.

We have a lot to celebrate. Back then, regulations designed to protect the oceans weren’t working fast enough – and fisheries that fed millions of people and supported thousands of jobs were headed toward collapse.

Since then, the work of seafood business and conservation leaders has helped change the industry and make it radically different than 20 years ago:

  • In the mid-90s, sustainability was a complication that seafood businesses had to manage. Today, it’s an integral part of doing business, with 90 percent of the North American grocery market having made sustainability commitments.
  • Then, conservation groups and industry didn’t work as closely. Today, they are rolling up their sleeves together to tackle shared challenges.
  • Back then, a regulation-only approach was falling short. Today, we see signs of progress on the water.

 

Here at FishWise, we’re proud of the progress we’ve seen firsthand. For example:

  • We’ve seen incredible progress by our industry partners. In 2010, Safeway and FishWise set an ambitious goal for all of the company’s fresh and private label frozen seafood to be environmentally responsible by the end of 2015. By year-end, 77% of Safeway’s seafood by volume met the company’s 2015 commitment, including 99% of its private label frozen seafood. At that point in the partnership, we had transitioned over 29 million pounds of unsustainable seafood to environmentally responsible sources.
  • While environmental sustainability issues were front of mind for most of the movement’s history, human rights abuses in seafood supply chains are increasingly becoming more of a concern. FishWise has been and will continue to focus on empowering NGOs and businesses to expand into broader work on social responsibility, including addressing human and labor rights abuses in seafood supply chains. Our white paper on social responsibility in the global seafood industry serves as a useful tool providing guidance and resources for seafood stakeholders.

 

And we’re committed to addressing the challenges ahead, by providing guidance on multiple seafood-related topics, including:

  • Guidance on social responsibility and anti-IUU measures in seafood supply chains
  • Engagement opportunities for our business partners to get involved in fishery improvement projects
  • Guidance on traceability so sustainability claims can be verified by tracing products back through the supply chain.

 

Next month’s Seafood Summit will include a keynote address focused on the sustainable seafood movement’s first 20 years. Whether you’re going to the Summit or not, we hope you’ll join us in celebrating shared accomplishments and collaborating on solutions to shared challenges.

Those challenges are daunting, but a look back at our shared history reminds us the sustainable seafood movement has faced daunting challenges before. And we’re hopeful and confident that we will continue making progress, working hand-in-hand with our partners, together.

New Improvements to FisheryProgress.org

Created on Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Since its launch in October 2016, FisheryProgress.org has become the one-stop shop for information on the progress of global fishery improvement projects (FIPs). With more than 45 FIP profiles currently listed and new profiles appearing each month, the site provides buyers the consistent, verified information they need to make decisions about whether FIPs meet their sustainable seafood commitments.

And now sourcing from FIPs using FisheryProgress.org is getting even easier. Thanks to a partnership between FisheryProgress.org and Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP), each FIP profile on the site now has an A-E progress rating associated with it.

Progress ratings make it easy for potential buyers to understand how quickly a FIP is making progress toward its end goals. Until now, these ratings were only accessible on SFP’s FishSource database. The ratings are derived using a methodology that has been endorsed by the Conservation Alliance and uses publicly available data uploaded by FIPs to SFP’s FIP Directory, individual FIP websites, and more recently FisheryProgress.org.

FishWise is excited about this new addition to FisheryProgress.org so that our partners have all the necessary information available when making decisions about which FIPs best meet their commitments. “Having all of this information available in one place, at one time with the click of a button has been a long time coming,” notes Ethan Lucas, Project Director at FishWise. “FisheryProgress.org has quickly become an essential tool in our toolbox to help ensure that the sourcing guidance we provide to industry partners is accurate and complete.”

For more information, visit FisheryProgress.org.

FishWise at Seafood Expo North America – Navigating Seafood Trade and Legislation in 2017

Created on Thursday, 13 April 2017

Over the past twenty years, the sustainable seafood movement has grown to include seafood industry and conservation leaders who recognize a shared interest in environmental stewardship. More recently, the movement has adapted to new challenges with seafood companies becoming increasingly concerned with traceability and human rights abuses in supply chains. At the Seafood Expo North America this March, Aurora Alifano of FishWise joined a unique panel of representatives from the government, legal, and corporate sectors to discuss industry compliance with trade laws and legislation, particularly those addressing human trafficking and modern slavery. Panelists included Michael Littenberg, Partner at Ropes & Gray LLP; Jack Scott, Head of Sustainability and Contract Manufacturing at Nestlé Purina PetCare; and Ken Kennedy, Senior Policy Advisor with U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security. Key recommendations put forth by panelists during the Seafood Expo session “Navigating Seafood Trade and Legislation in 2017” are shared below.

Why should companies invest in social responsibility?

Michael Littenberg, Partner at Ropes & Gray LLP said, “The biggest change we’re seeing is going from thinking of corporate social responsibility as a ‘nice to have’, to now more companies viewing it as central to their businesses. And increasingly, it is also becoming a regulated part of doing business.” The recent Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 gives legal incentive for more U.S. companies to take steps to avoid products associated with human trafficking and forced labor. However, determining the steps that a particular company should take to ensure compliance can be complicated.

How can companies assure they are compliant and exhibit due diligence?

Rather than trying to tackle all compliance issues at once, take a gradual, incremental approach. “The first thing you’ve got to do is get out a supplier expectations letter to establish the non-negotiable expectations for everyone you buy from,” Jack Scott suggested. Companies also need independent verification in their supply chains which may come from certifications, third party audits, or a combination of the two. Ken Kennedy highlighted the importance of having a plan in place before government enforcement action takes place. Companies can start by engaging in a supply chain risk assessment, based on particular products, where they are sourced from, and supplier compliance practices. The Department of Labor’s app, Sweat and Toil, can help identify products and supply chains that may require additional scrutiny. Although the various steps of compliance may seem overwhelming, Michael Littenberg wants companies to know that they can turn to multi-stakeholder initiatives, such as the Seafood Task Force or ISSARA Institute, for help. Once companies begin to take action, disclosure acts such as the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act and the UK Modern Slavery Act serve as opportunities for companies to highlight social responsibility initiatives and improvements within their supply chains.

For more information on reducing human trafficking and labor risks in the seafood industry, please visit to FishWise’s human rights resources page.

Investing in Traceability Tomorrow, Today

Created on Wednesday, 12 April 2017

 

Last month at the Seafood Expo North America in Boston, FishWise – in collaboration with the Global Food Traceability Center (GFTC), Future of Fish, and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) – organized a panel exploring what companies can do to implement traceability improvements now while ensuring they are setting themselves up to be adaptive and flexible to a rapidly evolving traceability landscape.

FishWise Traceability Division Director and 2017 Seafood Champion Award for Leadership finalist Mariah Boyle moderated the panel, titled “Investing in Traceability for Tomorrow, Today.” Panelists included Adriana Sanchez from Sea Delight, Guy Lott from Regal Springs Tilapia, and Mike Kraft from Bumble Bee Foods.

The panelists, each representing a different industry sector and niche, brought their own perspectives and experiences with traceability to the discussion. For Sea Delight, a midsize U.S. importer and distributor that sources from fisheries improvement projects (FIPs) globally, Adriana emphasized the importance of engaging small-scale fisheries in traceability improvement efforts and understanding the unique traceability challenges smaller producers face. Dealing exclusively in farmed tilapia and operating via vertically integrated supply chains, Guy discussed Regal Springs’ approach to traceability and how the company uses it to ensure product integrity and satisfy customer requests. Mike spoke to the importance of traceability for Bumble Bee’s internal tracking and supply chain needs, as well as leveraging traceability into additional product information for consumers via the company’s Trace My Catch website.

Bringing their hard-earned wisdom to the discussion, the panelists each discussed the influencing forces that spurred their company’s initial action to implement traceability improvements, the factors and considerations that helped them to decide where to focus traceability investments, and a few of the biggest challenges and benefits they’ve experienced over the course of their traceability journey. For Sea Delight, investing in traceability improvements over the last few years has played a key role in preparing the company to meet the U.S. Seafood Import Monitoring Program that will go into effect January 1, 2018. Guy highlighted that for Regal Springs, traceability has helped the company retain business while continuing to obtain new customers who value traceable product. And for Bumble Bee, traceability has enabled the company to meet its commitment to source legally harvested seafood and has resulted in increased visibility into the supply chains Bumble Bee works with.

The panelists each left the audience with one piece of advice: 1) Take action, know what’s coming, and ask questions! 2) Do your part to educate the public and have them demand traceable products and 3) Everyone is going to be at different starting points in terms of traceability. It is important to realize that and make improvements and changes that make the most sense for your company in terms of where you are now and what your end goal is.

In addition to “Investing in Traceability Tomorrow, Today,” FishWise, Future of Fish, GFTC, and WWF organized an additional panel at Boston – “Beyond Buzzwords: Translating Traceability for Everyone.” Moderated by Charles Steinback of Future of Fish, the panel featured Tejas Bhatt from GFTC, Tom Kraft from Norpac Fisheries, and David Schorr from WWF. The panel focused on the key concepts and technologies that promise to affect the traceability world in a very real way, the future of traceability, and the business case for its importance.

For more information about seafood traceability, please visit our Traceability Resources Page for additional information.

Welcome Jessie Zupcic-Moore!

Created on Monday, 03 April 2017

Hello FishWise readers!

My name is Jessie and I’ve recently joined FishWise as the Retail Division Intern.

My fascination with the ocean began when I was really young. I even have photos of myself as an infant holding on tightly to a little stuffed red lobster toy. As a kid, I was always so excited to take trips to the beach and to different aquariums around California. I was eager to learn about all the creatures that called the ocean their home. This drive throughout my childhood to find out more about the ocean lead me to UC Santa Cruz where I earned both a B.S. in Marine Biology and M.S. in Ocean Sciences. During my schooling, I spent a lot of time hanging out with seals, scuba diving with fish, and sailing on oceanographic vessels, focusing heavily on ecological research. As I move away from academic life, I’m eager to play a more hands-on role in encouraging positive change in the private sector. I am very excited to be working with and learning from FishWise.

When I’m not working, I enjoy climbing, baking, and tide pooling!

2017 NOAA report to Congress names IUU fishing countries

Created on Thursday, 30 March 2017

In January 2017, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) published its Biennial Report[1] to Congress on Improving International Fisheries Management. In the report, NOAA identifies three nations whose fishing vessels were reported to have engaged in illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing: Ecuador, Mexico, and the Russian Federation.

IUU fishing “undermines economic opportunities for U.S. fishermen and poses a direct threat to food security and socio-economic stability in many parts of the world,” according to NOAA; and countries are held responsible under international law for the illegal activities of fishing vessels registered under their flag. Ecuador, Mexico, and the Russian Federation are reported to have had fishing vessels violate several IUU fishing regulations in the last two years, including fishing in restricted areas, discarding or misreporting catch, and disposing plastics into the sea.

Since the last Biennial Report was published in 2015, five of the six countries previously identified took sufficient action to prevent IUU activities by adopting new regulations, amending existing policies, and by sanctioning responsible individuals. Mexico was re-identified in the 2017 Biennial Report and negatively certified due to continued illegal fishing in U.S. waters and overfishing of shared stocks. When NOAA ‘negatively certifies’ a country, it means that that the country can incur trade and port restrictions, but none have been enacted for Mexico. NOAA will continue to work with Mexico to support corrective action against IUU fishing activities. Ecuador was also re-identified, but for different violations than previously reported in 2015. As Ecuador amended their legislation and resolved previous cases, the country is not subject to import or port access restrictions. The Russian Federation was identified for fishing illegally in U.S. waters and undermining conservation measures of the Southern Ocean’s fisheries authority, such as misreporting fishing activity.

The 2017 Biennial Report also identifies three countries “of interest”: Costa Rica, Italy, and Panama. Countries “of interest” have fishing vessels that were identified for IUU activities over the past two years; they are not formally recognized as the cases were resolved through previously existing compliance measures or other appropriate means.

NOAA intends to work with Ecuador, Mexico, and the Russian Federation to improve their fisheries management and enforcement and will assess their progress in the next Biennial Report, due in 2019. If a country fails to make sufficient progress towards addressing the IUU activities of its fishing vessels, they risk restrictions on seafood imports and the denial of port privileges for their fishing vessels.

The Biennial Report also includes updates regarding domestic, regional, and global efforts that have occurred over the last two years to combat IUU fishing, minimize bycatch of protected species, and conserve sharks. A few significant highlights include:

  • the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) created the world’s largest marine protected area in the Ross Sea
  • the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) published a final rule establishing the Seafood Import Monitoring Program, a national seafood traceability program aimed at preventing IUU and/or fraudulent seafood from entering U.S. commerce
  • Congress passed the Ensuring Access Pacific Fisheries Act which will allow the U.S. to join the two newest regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) – the North Pacific Fisheries Commission (NPFC) and the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organization (SPRFMO).

 

[1] NOAA is mandated to submit the Biennial Report to Congress under the High Seas Driftnet Fishing Moratorium Protection Act, as amended by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act.