Chronicle from the Emerald City: social dimension tops agenda at Seafood Summit

Juliette shares the highlights from the SeaWeb Seafood Summit in Seattle; including the Seafood Champion Awards and panel presentations focussed on the opportunities for small-scale fisheries

In today’s seafood industry, both environmental and social issues top the agenda. Seafood companies are becoming more and more aware of the need to ensure responsible practices for the human element of their supply chains. This wasn’t the case 15 years ago – in 2002 – when the first SeaWeb Seafood Summit was held. But the tide has turned. Today, the Seafood Summit brings sustainability leaders from across the world together to share ideas, advance solutions and innovate; to accelerate the industries collective progress towards a seafood marketplace that is socially, economically and environmentally sustainable. As an opportunity not to be missed, I travelled with IPNLF’s Director for Policy & Outreach, Adam Baske, to Seattle, the Emerald City for the three-day conference. Our objective was to learn about the emerging trends and technologies in the seafood sector, as well as to share our insights into how to build support for the one-by-one tuna fisheries and raise the profile of small-scale fisheries. 

The Importance of the small-scale sector

Small-scale, artisanal fisheries contribute about half of global fish catches and employ more than 90% of the world’s capture fishers and fish workers. Despite these staggering figures, small-scale fisheries struggle to gain attention and ‘stage-time’ at international seafood events. Many of the fisheries and businesses that IPNLF works with provide support to this under-represented and often overlooked sector, so in a bid to ensure their voice was heard, IPNLF presented at two sessions at the Seafood Summit, discussing some of the key challenges and opportunities in one-by-one tuna supply chains. 

A voice for one-by-one

IPNLF hosted an interactive session at the summit that investigated the business case for supporting small-scale fisheries. Panellists Brett Bremser (Hy-Vee) Natalie Webster (AAFA and American Tuna) and Ashley Apel (Fair Trade USA) explored what makes the social and environmental attributes of small-scale sell. Participants broke into working groups to dig into different aspect of the supply chain and to learn from the success stories presented by our panellists.

The fine folk at Future of Fish also invited me to join a panel and speak about IPNLF’s experience with emerging traceability technology and providers. I was joined by Natalie Hunt (Future of Fish), Stephani Mangunsong (MDPI) and Seleni Cruz (TNC, Belize) for the first ever all-women Seafood Summit panel - a huge honour and proud moment! By focussing on our experiences working with small-scale fisheries, we informed the breakout discussions which explored some of the challenges that stakeholders face when implementing traceability initiatives, and how to use such tools to deliver benefits to the fisheries.  

IPNLF’s moment of glory

On top of all this, IPNLF was presented with the prestigious Seafood Champion Award for Advocacy, in recognition of our work reforming tuna management in the Indian Ocean. The award is both a great honour for IPNLF and an important milestone in our progress. Not only does it acknowledge the tireless efforts and determination of our team to get a job done; it also recognises the support from our growing Member network – our very own champions of change. Adam collected the award on behalf of IPNLF, joined by our fellow champions, Rifky Hardijanto on behalf of Susi Pudjiastuti, Indonesia's Minister of Maritime Affairs & Fisheries, Per Erik Bergh, Director, FISH-i Africa Task Force, Matt Beaudin, Executive Chef, Monterey Bay Aquarium and Ned Bell, Founder, Chefs for Oceans, and Ocean Wise Executive Chef. 

All of the Champions joined a panel discussion to share perspectives on what motivates them, and advice for fellow sustainable seafood advocates. Adam took the opportunity to stress the importance of working with the strongest and most passionate advocates for responsible fisheries – the fishers themselves – and the governments, like the Maldives, who are willing to do everything in their power to ensure their coastal communities can thrive for generations to come. Adam expressed it best when he said what inspires IPNLF the most is the collective passion of our Member network.  

A summit of success

All in all, it was a great summit for IPNLF. We were incredibly honoured to be recognised for our work, and the opportunity to further amplify the voice of our Member network and the fisheries we work with. It was also very encouraging to see a renewed focus on the human dimension of fisheries, which was a crosscutting theme throughout the event’s panel sessions. The challenge we all face now is how to act on all of these words to protect the fisheries, and the communities and businesses connected with them for years to come.