Sustainable seafood made headlines in Los Angeles on Tuesday, with the release of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s optimistic report, “State of Seafood: Turning the Tide,” which illustrated how supplies of and demand for sustainable seafood are each looking up. At the same time, up the Pacific Coast Highway in San Francisco, a gathering of industry leaders and other stakeholders engaged in the type of discussions that make such positive news possible.
Sustainability is a complex concept with — as of yet — no universal definition. As such, delegates at this week’s Sustainable Seafood Multi-Stakeholder Summit in San Francisco understand how challenging it is to move sustainability forward on a global scale — it’s akin to getting masters of different instruments to come together as an orchestra and make a cohesive sound, only without a conductor. The best course of action is to put all the various interests — suppliers, buyers, environmental groups and government — in the same room. Discourse is progress.
Sustainable seafood talk right now sounds a lot like chamber music; a prelude to what will hopefully be a beautiful song. But it will take a lot of rehearsing to get the tune right.
With speakers from as far away as Madagascar, Spain and Argentina and representing wild fisheries, salmon farms, distributors and the U.S. government, this summit is simply an exchange of ideas and ideals. The theme is harmonizing standards, certification schemes and traceability capabilities for sustainable seafood.
Should there be greater accord among the various certification schemes? A universal definition of sustainable seafood? A law to impose environmental stewardship?
All voices belong in the debate and more need to participate, regardless of credentials. Bill Carvalho, founder of Wild Planet Foods in McKinleyville, Calif., probably said it best: “I don’t have a Ph.D. in anything,” said Carvalho, “but I do have a J-O-B in buying and selling fish.”
Anyone who wants a job in seafood now or in the future should participate in the ongoing sustainability discussion. An exchange of similar and dissenting opinions is where the rubber meets the road. Keep the dialogue going, and more good news will surely come along.