It’s been a year and a half since we announced Target 75 – T75 – at a press conference at SeaWeb Seafood Summit in Seattle, Washington, back in 2017. Hopefully you’ve heard all about it already, but in a nutshell, we presented a plan for industry and others to collaborate and lead efforts to get 75 percent of global production of the top 10 major seafood sectors on the path to sustainability by the end of 2020.

But this blog isn’t just about what’s on track (18 Supply Chain Roundtables with more than 120 companies participating!), or recognizing the amazing work and impact of companies and collaborators already involved (21 new FIPs in 2018!). Nor is it about our efforts to build on the best practices in Fisheries or Aquaculture Improvement Projects (FIPs and AIPs), and ensure industry is leading and engaging governments and delivering policy change. It’s not even about exhorting existing partners to stay the course and redouble their efforts, or predicting what we can deliver together in 2019.

And that’s because we’re already doing all of the above, through existing sector reports, SR meetings, and discussions with partners and collaborators. We’ll be talking about all of it at the SFP Fisheries Forum in Miami next week, and we’ll be communicating our “T75 report card” ahead of and at the Boston seafood show. There is a staggering amount of work going on, both by SFP as well as our partners and their supply chains and collaborators. The SFP team is stretched thin, and I know many of them are suffering sleepless nights trying to pull it all together. But I’m confident most of it will work out, and if it doesn’t, we’ll adjust and figure out another way forward.

What I really want to mention here is what’s keeping me personally awake at night. And that’s getting new suppliers recruited to help us engage critical fisheries. The main reason I’m nervous is that, although we’re in good shape in five sectors, we absolutely must recruit new suppliers to give us a good chance of reaching T75 in the remaining five sectors – but it’s not yet clear whether our approaches will be enough. The second reason I’m nervous is that we’re going to have to ask our existing partners to do even more to help us recruit those suppliers (It’s OK, SFP’s partners knew I’d be asking for something more somewhere!).

The first ask we have of our existing partners is generic: Will you lend us your brand power to help elevate general business awareness of T75 globally, to help us recruit new suppliers?

The second ask we have is of specific existing partners, and is targeted at recruiting new suppliers in the five sectors where we really need them:

  • We need at least three of the top eight Chinese fishmeal companies to join the Asian Fishmeal SR, to help us engage multispecies trawl fisheries throughout Asia. A lot of Chinese fishmeal ends up in aquaculture feeds, but some of it still ends up in chicken and pig feed. A few of our partners buy quite a bit of Chinese pork and chicken, so we’re asking them to help us by setting up meetings with their Chinese fishmeal suppliers to discuss sustainability. These Asian fisheries are environmentally critical in their own right – overfishing is causing ecosystem collapse, and directly catching endangered species. But these Asian fisheries also account for at least 5 million tons of raw material supply. If those fisheries don’t become sustainable, then it’s going to be even more difficult and expensive to achieve sustainable aquaculture in Asia.
  • We need major distributors in Southeast Asia and Central America to join regional Snapper-Grouper SRs, starting with Indonesia in 2019. This is because so much of domestic landings from these fisheries stays in those countries, that even if all the US importers were aggressively engaged in the SR (and sad to say, all of them are not…yet), it isn’t likely to be enough to engage the entire fishery nationally. So we need help from domestic supply chains and customers in those countries. To date, some domestic suppliers have come on board in Indonesia, because they were asked to do so by one of their major hotel chain customers, who were buying a lot of valuable fish for the local tourism trade. So we’re asking our partners, and especially distributors already supplying major hotel chains – can you help us get headquarters meetings with more hotel chains?
  • We need at least three of the top 10 South Korean squid and octopus importers to join the Global Squid and Global Octopus SRs. Both SRs are doing really well, with a lot of Spanish  and US importers helping to get new FIPs going and lining up even more. But a big part of global supply comes from the main Asian octopus and squid fisheries. Those fisheries primarily supply Asia, and South Korea is their biggest customer. In order to get those Asian fisheries into FIPs, we need help from the existing SR members to recruit their South Korean competitors to the SR.
  • We need at least three of the top five Japanese fresh-frozen tuna importers to join the Global Fresh-Frozen Tuna SR. Once again, Spanish and US importers are doing a great job in engaging their fisheries. But around 80 percent by value of landings of fresh frozen bigeye and yellowfin goes to Japan, so engaging all the main fisheries requires support from some major Japanese importers. We’re already working with great collaborators and partners in Japan to engage these companies. We don’t have specific further asks of our existing partners on this one, but we’ve yet to see if all the work to date will pay off.

T75 isn’t about one seafood supplier competing against another, or one retailer trying to get an edge over another. It’s about all customers and suppliers working together, and all benefiting. Success will stabilize raw material supply, diversify responsible sources, enable predictable and planned growth, remove supply and brand risk from seafood, and enhance the general sustainability reputation of seafood. Collaborating with competitors might be a bit uncomfortable at times, but the connection to the bottom line is direct and obvious. SFP will continue to promote and discuss the initiative both in 2019 and 2020, and I look forward to continuing this positive work with the industry to reach this important goal.