Ed. note: This is part two of Amy Sweeting’s recap of SFP’s Target 75 Global Forum 2019. Read part one here.

After the pre-forum activities on February 6, the full day of panels and discussions got underway on the 7th. Six different panels reviewed the successes and challenges of fisheries and aquaculture sustainability and laid out a path to T75.

The day began with a conversation between SFP CEO Jim Cannon and Keith Kenny, Vice President for Sustainability at the McDonald’s Corporation, one of SFP’s oldest partners. Kenny noted that, at McDonald’s, “Our sustainability journey started a long time ago,” and it began with a focus on fish. For a company to “thrive and prosper over time,” Kenny said, it can’t just deliver financial performance, but must also make positive contributions to society. To this end, McDonald’s has established a board-level sustainability committee and has a long history of asking its suppliers to work together pre-competitively on sustainability issues, a concept which Cannon noted he copied and has aimed to expand industry wide as a key driver of the mission of SFP.

SFP Senior Improvements and Strategy Manager Megan Westmeyer facilitated a panel on scaling up FIPs to the national level. Westmeyer noted that the work in SFP’s first decade focused on individual FIPs and, though many were very successful, in the end they were often “small fish in a big pond.” The national FIP approach, which includes national-level stock assessments, management plans, and enforcement, recognizes the need to look at fisheries as a whole, rather than individual supply chains. “This is the only true path to sustainability,” she said. On the panel, Andre Brugger of Netuno discussed the establishment of a national-level deep water snapper and grouper FIP in Indonesia; Pablo Cueva of UNDP Ecuador introduced the Global Marine Commodities Project, funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), which is supporting multi-stakeholder dialogues for development and implementation of sustainable fisheries frameworks in Costa Rica, Ecuador, Indonesia, and the Philippines; and Julian Portilla of Impacto Colectivo por la Pesca Mexicana in Mexico discussed his group’s efforts to create a common agenda among stakeholders to improve national fisheries policy in Mexico.

SFP Global Tuna Director Tom Pickerell also chaired a panel discussing scaling up improvement projects, this time looking at the challenges of managing fisheries that cross national boundaries. Richard Stavis, of Stavis Seafoods, noted that the global demand for sustainable tuna will soon outstrip the supply, as only five of 19 major tuna stocks are being managed sustainably. This is in part due to the migratory nature of tuna, which means that it cannot be managed locally, regionally, or even nationally. “Every time we try to manage the fish, they just swim away,” Stavis said. The key to sustainably managing the species, he said, are the tuna RFMOs, but “they are not getting the job done.” It is up to the industry players who source the products to hold the RFMOs accountable, Stavis concluded. Guy Pizutti of Publix Super Markets, echoed the concerns about migratory species, noting that tuna and mahi are the only two of the top ten wild seafood items that Publix sells that the company can’t call sustainable. Action on a multi-national level, beyond individual FIPs, is required, Pizutti said. “Cleaning up our own supply chain is not enough,” he noted.

The discussion next turned to aquaculture, with a panel facilitated by SFP’s Deputy Programs Division Director Dave Martin. Echoing many of the themes that had been touched on in the previous day’s workshop, Martin stressed the need for scaling up improvement efforts in aquaculture as well, looking beyond individual farm certifications to apply a regional management approach. Elena Piana, of Sea Farms, related the story of a group of several shrimp farms in Belize that are working together to form an AIP to help them jointly monitor diseases, after a disease outbreak in 2016 forced many certified farms to temporarily close. Bill DiMento, of High Liner Foods, discussed what he sees as the most pressing problem in aquaculture, which is “How can we change the negative perceptions of aquaculture and farmed seafood, particularly among North American consumers?” DiMento described aquaculture as the future of seafood: “It is how we will responsibly grow our business.” He said the way to counter the negative stories about aquaculture in the media is through consistent enforcement of best practices, to change the narrative. To close out the panel, Chris Ninnes of the Aquaculture Stewardship Council noted that scaling up the approach to sustainability in aquaculture will be very important moving forward, to meet the demand from companies that have made commitments to buy sustainable product.

Since its earliest days, SFP has been stressing the importance of industry players working together in a pre-competitive environment to advance sustainability. But corporations are not the only ones who benefit from such collaboration. SFP’s Director of Strategic Initiatives for Buyer Engagement, Sam Grimley, facilitated a panel entitled “Pre-Competitive Collaborations: Not Just for Industry” to explore this topic. Perry Broderick, of Ocean Outcomes, discussed the importance of pre-competitive collaboration between his organization and the Global Squid Supply Chain Roundtable that SFP facilitates in developing the East China Sea and Yellow Sea Squid FIP, which has contributed to remarkable progress toward T75 in the global squid sector. “Together, we are stronger,” Broderick said. Cecilia Blasco from Smart Fish, a markets-based sustainable fisheries NGO in Mexico spoke about how they are working to adapt SFP’s major buyer engagement model in Mexico using SFP tools and their expertise on Mexican fisheries and markets. The final panelist was Robin Teets of the NGO Tuna Forum, which includes more than 15 NGOs working together on coordinated goals, messages, and action related to tuna. The forum members seek to “find common ground where they can, and minimize dissonance where they can’t, so as not to send conflicting messages to industry,” Teets said.

International development agencies are creating fisheries sustainability projects, but they need support and buy-in from industry to get governments on board, SFP Buyer Engagement Manager Carmen González-Vallés noted in her panel on supporting industry in advancing Target 75. Augusto Lopez, of the group Cañeros de Manta, told the forum about his group’s efforts to bring back traditional pole and line fishing practices in Ecuador, supported by the GMC project and the Coastal Fisheries Initiative, funded by GEF. The traditional methods, which have been suffering from competition from the industrial purse seine fleet have very low ecosystem impact and no bycatch. GEF’s Christian Severin discussed the role of the GEF in supporting interventions that include foundational activities such as research; policy, legal, and investment frameworks; and full-scale strategic action programming. GEF’s goal is to “convene partnerships to ensure that public investment and policies lead to stronger governance regimes that will then attract private investment,” Severin said.

The last panel of the day looked at the crucial need to reach new markets, hosted by SFP Deputy Division Director for Buyer Engagement Pedro Ferreiro. Wakao Hanaoka of Seafood Legacy Japan, noted that Japan is a huge seafood market – the second-largest seafood importer by value in the world. Although fish consumption has dropped in Japan in recent years compared to other protein sources like beef and chicken, he said the market for sustainable seafood is growing rapidly. There is a tremendous opportunity to advance seafood sustainability in Japan in relation to the upcoming 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Hanaoka said. SFP Board member Jean Louis Meuric, of Sysco France, closed out the panel. “To achieve the global ambition of T75,” he said, “We must tap new markets.” Meuric stressed the need to expand focus to new geographical zones, such as South Korea and China. Hanaoka added that Japan is an important “window for development of sustainability in Asian markets,” noting that South Korea is one of the main exporting nations to Japan.

SFP CEO Jim Cannon wrapped up the Forum with a review of the main themes that came out of the day’s discussions. He reflected on SFP’s journey so far and looked ahead to the future, and the need to “scale up, grab efficiencies of scale, engage national governments, engage RFMOs.” Cannon also reiterated the need to change the conversation around aquaculture, where “bad press has led to a bad reputation,” and said that “the way to counter that is through sustainability.” While praising the tremendous progress that has been made so far, Cannon concluded with a call to SFP partners to help us reach new markets with the message of sustainability. “The folks in this room alone cannot achieve T75,” Cannon said. “We must reach the fisheries you don’t buy from, that you don’t buy enough from, that are globally significant, and fisheries in countries with no modern production systems or regulations or management structures.”

Even though participants in the room may not have all the leverage necessary to reach T75, the purpose of the Forum was to inform and inspire the attendees to reach out to their competitors, their customers, and their colleagues to get them engaged too. “We strategically time the forum in advance of Boston so that these projects and needs are top of mind for folks and they can help us to make those connections at the upcoming seafood shows,” said Kathryn Novak, Programs Division Director at SFP. “These are the leaders who have been coming to SFP’s forums since back in 2012, and they understand that even if they don’t buy squid from South Korea, they probably know someone who does, and that’s the kind of scaling up and collaboration we need to reach Target 75.”