3P SoundBite: Tim O’Shea of CleanFish

3P SoundBite emerged from our desire to show that entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs in sustainability come from all different walks of life…they could be people you know, or they could even be you! Every Thursday, we bring you a new profile and a new perspective.
Inspired by the initiatives taken by Niman Ranch where small family farms did not have to sell out their farms, in 2004, Tim O’Shea of CleanFish started intensive conversations with a seafood distributor to initiate a grassroots, guerilla marketing approach to change the fishing industry’s mass producing attitude towards fish. While the news continued to broadcast the problems with farm salmon and wild fisheries. Tim felt that both the media and environmental groups were sending out the wrong message of “Farm bad, wild good.”
His curiosity about the food chain and human detachment from getting the animal to your dinner plate led him on a quest to understand what was happening. As he tells it, after looking around for someone else to solve this huge problem, Tim finally decided that had to just “be a man” and take charge of this initiative.
Read on to learn more about food detachment, aquaculture (seafood cultivation) and creating brand stories for sustainable seafood products.

About CleanFish: Tim quotes Michael Paulin’s Omnivore’s Dilemma, which suggests that the variety of choice that we have in choosing our foods can be pleasurable in the variety but can also bring a lot of stress with it. Mass production does not help, as people do not want to think about where their food comes from because of the variety of labels such as “organic,” “local” or “imported.” Tim says this is “central to our (Cleanfish’s) funding thrust…we are at the end of an age of hunting & gathering.”
The CleanFish brand evangelism approach
CleanFish tries to connect people with the stories of where there food comes from. Tim describes this as a two step process as a provider to restaurants.
1) CleanFish approaches premium restaurateurs such as The French Laundry in Napa and provides them with a better quality product with less bycatch and safer trawling practices that do not harm the seabeds. He says that this often piques restaurateur’s interests once they notice the quality of the fish, and they want to know more.
2) They connect the dots and they learn about the densities of fish that are taken. CleanFish emphasizes that these restaurateurs help to tell the story of these fish, and Tim tells us that this has caused a ripple effect where other restaurants such as Left Bank, Il Fornaio have taken notice. In the case of their new product, the Laughing Bird Caribbean White Shrimp from Belize, their seafood is also served at a local taqueria in San Francisco.
On production and nature: Tim stresses that nature does not produce seafood at the rate the mass market desires.
He points out that in the 1950s & 1960s, salmon used to be a rare delicacy. Businesspeople saw an opportunity and turned that salmon into an everyday food. Now, people think they can get it 365 days, and any time of the year. “This is ignorance,” Tim said, “because nature does not produce at that rate…the fishing industry cannot just think about the costs of buying a boat, a net, etcetera and act as a vacuum cleaner of the ocean’s ecosystem”
He points out that the consequences are clear and there may not even be salmon season this year, because people often do not make the connection between the origins of their food and when it appears in their grocery stores.
What you can do to be sustainable: “Eat less and eat better. Also, with election time upon us, vote with your fork at every single meal,” Tim recommends.
He said it’s important to get educated on the matter and avoid being in denial, and in other words, ask where your food comes from. Like many other sustainable causes, Tim says that this is everyone’s responsibility and not someone else’s.
To learn more:
Visit CleanFish’s website and find sustainable restaurants near you: http://www.cleanfish.com
Read the first chapter of The Omnivore’s Dilemma in PDF.
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Clara Kuo is a marketing communications strategist with an MBA in international marketing from the Monterey Institute of International Studies. Her professional interests include social media, entrepreneurship/intrapreneurship and the triple bottom line. She blogs here and on her self-named blog (www.clarakuo.com).

Clara lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and considers herself an international citizen. She has an MBA from the Monterey Institute of International Studies, and currently works in San Francisco as a marketing analyst. You can find her tweeting, blogging or simply continue an existing 3P conversation by commenting on a post.

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