Panel report sets best course for fisheries


Sean Murphy, SeafoodSource online editor

Published on
November 5, 2013

Whether you believe everything Al Gore has to say about the role of the corporate world in long-term damage to the environment, the issue of sustainability has become more than just a buzzword for CEOs.

For some time now, corporations have been looking for ways to become good environmental stewards without compromising the bottom line, to the point where many consultants have described this balance as the Holy Grail of business — a coveted concept everyone is seeking, but no one is quite sure how to find.

Taking the discussion to the world's oceans, it would make sense, then, to see CEOs of seafood corporations — no strangers to addressing efficiency in their operations — collaborating with leading voices in conservation and environmental protection. The products of such a meeting of the minds would be extraordinary, assuming that these leaders in their respective fields could stand to be in the same room with each other for more than five minutes.

A report that emerged two weeks ago, Indispensable Ocean, is just that — the product of an extraordinary collaboration. It was a blue-ribbon panel of 20 people, plus a chairman. The full list is here, but some of its notable members include Thiraphong Chansiri, president of Thai Union Foods; Chris Lischewski, president and CEO of Bumble Bee Foods; John Tanzer, director of the World Wildlife Fund's Global Marine Program; and Dawn Wright, chief scientist at the Environmental Systems Research Institute. The report contains guidelines for developing fisheries in a way that yields sufficient supplies, but not at the expense of the long-term health of the oceans' ecosystems.

James Anderson, fisheries and aquaculture advisor at the World Bank, along with several other organizers, helped arrange for the panel to discuss how, among other things, to guide investment in fisheries projects down the road. He said the common thread that linked all these strange bedfellows together was the interest in helping developing coastal nations that had a say in what happens in the waters they govern.

Anderson and his cohorts in government, corporations and NGOs have the right approach here. The world cannot set arbitrary restrictions on fishing and expect a starving nation of artisanal fishermen to stay out of the water. At the same time, a corporate fishing fleet looking to make money by feeding people thousands of miles away can't expect said artisanal fishermen to stand aside and let the fleets take food from their mouths. Investing in projects that help these nations grow and develop makes sense both for the non-governmental organizations who want to protect the sea and the corporate fisheries whose livelihood comes from it.

The report is available free of charge by clicking here. Everyone who has a stake in the world's oceans needs to read it, as it will likely serve as a blueprint for fisheries projects for years to come. It ought to — just look who wrote it.

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