A mission for collaboration: My first trip to Brussels Seafood Expo

Communications Coordinator, Elizabeth Huxley-Jones, jumps in the deep end to seek out collaboration at the Global Seafood Expo 2014.
Getting a taste for pole-and-line tuna at Brussels Seafood Expo. © IPNLF

The first month of a new job is always, understandably, a little daunting.

Combining your first month with your first ever experience of the Global Seafood Expo in Brussels? Most of the people I met termed it “being thrown in at the deep end”, which seems rather appropriate given the marine context.

But, given the opportunity to travel with IPNLF and co-host an event with our new members Anova Seafood, I could hardly resist diving in.

The Seafood Expo itself is much, much larger than I ever expected, spread across 12 buildings. As I approached it, I couldn’t help but admire the main building, built in 1958 but retaining all the formidable beauty to this day. Stalls as far as the eye can see, from every corner of the world, filled with the most delicious, beautiful seafood.

To me, the Expo represents a great opportunity for the meeting of minds, a platform for cooperative working just waiting to happen.

Thanks to our wonderful colleagues at Anova Seafood, I was not disappointed. Their generosity meant we were able to co-host an event on their stand, showcasing Indonesia’s pole-and-line and hand line caught tuna. It provided a space for stakeholders attending the event to meet and discuss ways to work together, to ensure the success of Indonesia’s tuna fisheries.

It was also a great opportunity to try some of the delicious tuna I spend much of my life talking about.

The event was opened by welcoming speeches from Willem Huisman, Director of Anova, and Pak Saut Hutagalung, Director General of Fish Products and Processing from the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, Indonesia. Our own Chairman, John Burton, also gave a speech detailing IPNLF’s involvement in Indonesia and our plans for the future, which you can watch here, and was also interviewed by Seafood Source about IPNLF.

One of the main aims of our work in Indonesia is helping advance Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification of the coastal tuna fisheries. Certification can ensure that the true value of the pole and line caught tuna is recognized, benefiting people all the way down the supply chain. More money for the fishers, more responsibly caught tuna for the consumers. Rupert Howes, CEO of MSC, congratulated the hard work that was being done in Indonesia to advance these aims.

Possibly the most poignant moment of the whole event, for me, was the closing remarks of Aditya Utama’s speech. Aditya is the Director of Yayasan Masyarakat dan Perikanan Indonesia, and is involved in Fishing & Living in Indonesia, a program supported by Anova Seafood, WWF, USAID, local and national governments and other stakeholders, which works to benefit the fishers who responsibly fish by promoting the fisheries and working for enhanced living conditions within these communities.

His words were: “There are no competitors in sustainability… there are only friends and partners”.

Not only did this sum up what I hoped to see in Brussels, I fully believe it sums up the underlying message of the International Pole & Line Foundation. We believe that collaborative working strengthens us, and will ensure that our goals for responsible, sustainable pole and line fisheries globally will be met.

Together and united, stakeholders can share knowledge and work together to find the best solutions for fisheries management and the communities that depend on pole and line. This is what I saw embodied in the gathering of stakeholders at the Brussels event.

I wonder what insights my second month will bring.