The sustainability of fish and seafood stocks continues to be an issue of global concern. Human population growth, overfishing, fast-growing aquaculture production, rising levels of marine and freshwater pollution and coastal property development, and, more recently, the effects of climate change, including ocean acidification – all factor into the local, national, regional and international institutional frameworks that result in fisheries governance and management policies, regulations and practices.
Providing a core, pivotal link in the fish and seafood supply chain, wholesale distributors can have an outsized influence on fisheries management, fishing practices and efforts aimed at enhancing the sustainability of fisheries worldwide.
This past week, six “like-minded” North American seafood wholesalers announced they have joined together to form Sea Pact, “a coalition of seafood industry leaders who strive to advance environmentally sustainable fisheries and aquaculture practices and provide the building blocks of a long term and sustainable fishing industry by financially contributing to improve the fishing and fish farm practices from which they procure.”
Cultivating sustainability across the seafood supply chain
The health and integrity of marine and freshwater ecosystems has been of growing concern over the course of recent decades despite, and in large part due to, increases in overall fish and seafood production. The worldwide supply of fish has increased steadily and substantially over the past five decades, rising an average 3.2 percent per year between 1961-2009.
Worldwide fish consumption reached an estimated 18.6 kilograms (kg) per capita in 2009, up from 9.9 kg in the 1960s, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture – 2012.
Increasing fish production – which in large part has been the result of the spread of modern, industrial fishing fleets, the emergence of global markets and supply chains, and rising aquaculture production – has obscured troubling trends in assessments of fundamental marine and freshwater seafood stocks and ecosystems health and integrity, however. Recent decades have seen an almost sequential decimation of once highly productive fisheries and fish stocks, a drastic reduction in species’ populations and biodiversity, and ongoing degradation of marine ecosystems.
By forming Sea Pact, Albion Fisheries, Fortune Fish & Gourmet, Ipswich Shellfish Group, Santa Monica Seafood, Seacore Seafood and Seattle Fish Co. aim to leverage their roles as wholesale seafood distributors to bring about positive industry change that will not only enhance the sustainability of seafood production, but enhance the health and integrity of marine ecosystems and help assure decent livelihoods for future, as well as current, generations of fishermen, fishing fleets and aquaculture industry participants.
As the companies explain,
As seafood suppliers we recognize our responsibility to not only embrace environmental stewardship, but to also safeguard our waters to ensure the healthy availability of seafood for generations to come.
To help achieve this, we have collectively established Sea Pact in order to pool our resources and knowledge to support improvements to the fishing and fish farming systems from which we source.
Sea Pact grew out of Santa Monica Seafood’s Responsible Sourcing/Vendor Partnership (RSVP), “a collaboration with FishWise that applied a percentage of their purchases towards projects aimed at improving fisheries and aquaculture efforts at home and abroad.” The success of Santa Monica Seafood’s RSVP program attracted interest from other seafood wholesalers in the US and Canada who had instituted sustainability policies and who likewise saw the benefits that could be realized.
With Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) and FishWise acting as environmental consultants, the Sea Pact coalition is now looking to identify and fund sustainable fisheries projects through the non-profit New Venture Fund.