Go well, go boldly, and ride the waves - a farewell from Emily

Emily Howgate, International Coordinating Director, reflects on her learnings and experience as she says farewell to IPNLF
Emily Howgate says farewell to IPNLF © IPNLF

For the past 3 years I have enjoyed a vibrant work life at IPNLF; serving projects of benefit and purpose, championing sustainable communities and businesses, and working alongside some of the most dedicated, smart and inspirational people I know. It’s now simultaneously strange and exciting to be writing my ‘goodbye blog’ and stepping away - choosing to spend some time to travel, volunteer and explore more of the world. Less time behind the laptop I expect!

During my IPNLF role I've been places I wouldn't even have thought of; the back of a fishing boat in the Maldives, on stage in front of hundreds of tuna industry leaders in Bangkok, and even on Intrafish’s ‘Top 40 under 40’ list (proud glow moment!). Dwelling in the tuna world though I’ve also heard of things I’d care not to dream of. We purportedly live “In the Age of Transparency” yet given some of the things about the tuna industry in the trade news this year not all companies seem to have caught on to that - reading about deception of consumers, on-board slavery, and abuse of at-sea-observers I’ve been shocked and sometimes sickened.

This is not what 21st century business should be about. We need people with vision and courage - people who are trying to create a better world. During my time at IPNLF I’ve felt part of this kind of vision, and satisfaction that the work we do is aiming to bring benefits to marine environments - as well as local communities through culture and employment (too often in the sustainable seafood world we talk about sustainability in a one-dimensional environmental way, neglecting - to our detriment - the people who are part of the system). 

Still, a common complaint we hear at IPNLF is “but there’s not enough one-by-one supply!”. This may currently be the case - but given that these are likely the most sustainable tuna fisheries the problem of excess demand seems a pretty good problem to have - it gives me some hope! So, where do we take this issue? None of us are passive participants in life. Businesses need to be active in creating the world - the supply - they want to be part of. "Be the change". The leading businesses IPNLF works with take a dual approach to their supply; they source as much one-by-one caught fish as possible AND engage in fisheries projects and policies that grow such supply and improve one-by-one fisheries further. (i.e. invest in future supply for their businesses).

This approach fits with my firm belief that responsibility in the tuna sector needs to be less about simply minimising the harm it does (i.e. just being ‘less bad’) and re-visioning to focus on creating benefits where these fisheries and supply chains operate. This is what IPNLF believe one-by-one fisheries do...and can do even more of given the chance. This “net positive impact” approach is well-founded in other commercial arenas, and we should make the most of cross-sector learning.

Quite frankly, in the 21st century, tuna businesses need to have more ambition than just killing less turtles or not having slaves! Modern consumers expect more, and the Earth’s environment and societies can no longer withstand such harm. It’s incumbent on our humanity to do all we can to support fisheries and businesses that provide valuable livelihoods and care for the natural systems we rely on. I’m proud that IPNLF is the kind of organisation that acts in line with that kind of humanity.  

As I step away from IPNLF I think the organisation is in a healthy place to move to its next phase. The team internally is composed of astoundingly capable and inspirational individuals, support from partners and Members continues to grow, and the newly finalised organisational Values and Strategic Focus are charting a targeted and exciting path. 

It has been a privilege to be part of IPNLF's early years, and I remain a staunch advocate of the charity and the fisheries we work with. 

So….A big shout out to the IPNLF colleagues and supporters who are choosing to be part of the solution - thank you for your inspiration and enthusiasm in our work together. Go well, go boldly, and ride the waves.