Sustainability a Necessity


Steven Hedlund

Published on
October 19, 2008

Buying sustainable seafood isn't an option - it's a necessity. A growing number of seafood buyers are developing and implementing seafood purchasing policies to ensure the products they buy are harvested or raised in a responsible manner.

Though it has progressed considerably over the past few years, the sustainable seafood movement is still in its infancy. The concept of sustainability is complex and overwhelming, and seafood buyers are just beginning to grasp it.

However, perhaps for the first time, the seafood and conservation communities are collaborating on a common goal. Seafood buyers are beginning to incorporate environmentalists' expertise into their sustainable seafood purchasing policies, and environmentalists are starting to understand the social and economic requirements of such policies.

"If a commitment to sustainability doesn't make financial sense, then it's probably not going to work," says Tobias Aguirre, executive director of FishWise in Santa Cruz, Calif., who works directly with seafood buyers to help them assess the sustainability of their products, educate their staff and market their commitment to sustainability.

Seafood buyers and environmentalists agree that any sustainable seafood purchasing policy must comprise three tiers - environmental, social and economic.

"It doesn't work unless all three [tiers] are there," says Ed Rhodes, director of the aquaculture and sustainability division at Phillips Foods in Baltimore. "When most people give you the definition of sustainability, they say you need to leave the Earth the way it is now. It tends to be environmental. From a business standpoint, we have to be economically viable and socially acceptable as well."

That seafood buyers and environmentalists see eye-to-eye on these three tiers represents an enormous step forward for the sustainable seafood movement.

For more information on the sustainable seafood movement and how to go about developing and implementing a seafood purchasing policy, check out SeaFood Business' upcoming November issue, the inaugural Sustainable Seafood Buyer's Guide.

Best regards,
Steven Hedlund
Associate Editor
SeaFood Business

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