Q&A: Melanie Siggs, SeaWeb

Published on
August 23, 2009

Earlier this year, Melanie Siggs, VP of sustainable markets for SeaWeb, took on an international leadership role at the environmental NGO's Seafood Choices Alliance program. Siggs talked to SeafoodSource recently about her new position and the challenges her organization faces in the near and long term.

Holmyard: What is Seafood Choices Alliance?

Siggs: Seafood Choices is part of SeaWeb, an international NGO since 1996 that combines strategic communications expertise with social science to catalyze positive change for our oceans. Seafood Choices Alliance was founded in 2001, and with offices in the U.S. and Europe, is [SeaWeb's] biggest program. We work collaboratively right across industry, connecting stakeholders and facilitating dialogue, looking for ways to empower a responsible seafood industry to make positive change.

What are the organization's notable achievements?  

We are probably best known for our annual Seafood Summit, which attracts nearly 500 stakeholders from across the supply chain, representing 35 different countries, who come together to dig deep, explore challenging and sensitive issues and share knowledge.

Congratulations on your new role at Seafood Choices. What does it involve?

Thank you! I'm fortunate to have Ned Daly in North America and Elisabeth Vallet in Europe, who help support and manage the program, and we have a great team of people. A large part of my time is spent networking and learning, making connections across issues, people and organizations. Another important part of my work is with the NGO community, helping to provide forums for learning, developing, meeting with business peers, etc.

What are Seafood Choices' near- and long-term objectives?

Our biggest short-term objective is organizing the next Seafood Summit in Paris in January 2010, and we need a great deal of financial support to make this great opportunity accessible to all.

We are active around our core issues of IUU [illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing], climate change, aquaculture and fisheries improvement. There's also some really exciting work in the pipeline, looking at new models for management, exploring what certification might look like in the next 10 years and being part of major projects in Africa and Bangladesh. The main focus is on providing safe places to explore difficult questions, noticing opportunities and connecting people.

Who's driving the sustainable seafood movement? 

Traditionally the retailers have led the move, largely catalysed by NGO action. But we're really seeing the foodservice sector stepping up to the plate now. Behavior and culture are very different across European, U.S. and Asian markets, and this needs more research. I think the UK industry is ahead of the game in demonstrating a good understanding of the issues and in putting them into practice, even if that sounds biased.

Are you involved in the consultation for reform of the European Union's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) or movements for sustainable aquaculture?

We don't get involved in the nitty gritty of the consultation process but try to ensure that people have the information they need to get involved, and thus encourage participation in this important process. For example, our Afishianado newsletter in the autumn will focus on CFP reform with interviews, video and case studies around the consultation, and projects looking at alternative routes to fisheries management that might address big issues like discards. We've been active in the aquaculture industry for a few years, predominantly looking at standard setting as a tool for assurance and at the challenges of meeting standards.

Do you have a personal mission?

There's a lot of work still to do to build a responsible future for the industry, which in turn will help protect the oceans. I will be honoured if I can continue to help ensure that SeaWeb and Seafood Choices Alliance play a useful role in making that happen.

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