“It was important for someone to take the first step”: Pamela Nath celebrates Sustainable Shrimp Partnership’s sixth anniversary

Sustainable Shrimp Partnership Director Pamela Nath.
Sustainable Shrimp Partnership Director Pamela Nath | Photo by Cliff White/SeafoodSource
6 Min

Ecuador’s Sustainable Shrimp celebrated its sixth anniversary at the 2024 Seafood Expo North America.

Launched at SENA in March 2018, the collaboration between Ecuadorian shrimp producers was intended to give the industry a pre-competitive platform to improve the country's reputation as a source of safe and sustainable shrimp. SSP’s founding members were Grupo Almar, Grupo Camaronero Champmar, Corporación Lanec, Omarsa, Promarisco, and Songa.

We're still here, still going strong and better than ever,” SSP Director Pamela Nath told SeafoodSource. “SSP was not something that the government imposed or the [National] Chamber [of Aquaculture] imposed; it came from [the producers]. They felt that it was necessary not just to differentiate their product international market, but to lead the way on responsible aquaculture.”

 Nath said the founders initiated projects to promote transparency, environmental and social responsibility, and high standards across all aspects of shrimp production. SSP created its own eco-label in 2019 requiring Aquaculture Stewardship Council certification, 100 percent traceability, zero use of antibiotics, and a net neutral impact on the environment. It launched a blockchain-based traceability app in 2020. And it hosted a shrimp summit in 2022 in conjunction with ASC, focused on efforts to ameliorate the environmental and social impact of shrimp aquaculture in the region.

"SSP owes its success to the dedication of our members. Through their proactive efforts, they've shown that achieving clean and sustainable aquaculture is attainable. Additionally, they have collaborated to identify areas for improvement, leading the way towards a more responsible future for the industry," Nath said.

Nath also cited the group’s creation of the Sustainability Leadership Roundtable, which has initiated a number of conservation projects in coordination with global NGOs, aligned with SSP’s environmental mission. Those projects include mangrove protection in Ecuador in partnership with Clark University and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF); advocacy for labor equity and living wages in partnership with the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC); participation in the Working Group on Aquaculture on Environmental Footprint, also with IDH; a project aiming to reduce the industry’s carbon footprint led by The Nature Conservancy (TNC); and participation in the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) antimicrobial resistance platform.

In addition, SSP recently launched its Scale-Up Program for Shrimp Hatcheries in late February, according to Nath. The pilot, which will run on guidelines created over the past year by SSP, will begin in April with the involvement of between 12 and 15 hatcheries in Ecuador.

“It is important to address the topic of hatchery management,” Nath said. “This program aims to advance the sustainable management of shrimp larval production by recognizing and supporting hatcheries committed to improving product quality and their environmental and social impact. Through this plan, SSP provides a guide focused on establishing specific regulations for sustainable shrimp larval production in Ecuador, ensuring that shrimp adheres to sustainability principles throughout its production chain.”

And SSP has conducted a number of consumer-focused promotions and also seeks to form partnerships with chefs, nutritionists, and other collaborators involved with seafood. Its latest effort on that front is a tie-up with the U.S.-based Seafood Nutrition Partnership to create a nutritional guide specifically designed for dietitians to learn more about shrimp. Nath said the guide will be released at a large dieticians conference in October 2024.

“We’re always studying how can we generate change in the marketplace,” Nath said. “There are a lot of misconceptions and myths around seafood. People do not know enough about the health benefits of seafood. Some people think they shouldn’t eat seafood because it’s not healthy it’s wrong – it’s totally the opposite. So we are working with SNP and their connections with universities and scientists and doctors to put together a book that has everything dieticians need to know about shrimp.”

SSP also recently published a culinary guide, and is exploring other opportunities to “offer consumers accurate information, empowering them to make informed decisions about the products they choose to consume,” Nath said.

“We are pushing to develop specialized content for different audiences, because that opens doors,” Nath said. “We’ve found it’s important to have these tools to pass the message to different groups. For example, we go to many culinary schools, and we have to be able to talk in the same language as the culinary community, which is the point behind the culinary guide.”

Nath said SSP also wants to have conversations with U.S. consumers.

“We want to talk to people who consume seafood or who want to but need more information, and explain why it is important to consume seafood and Ecuadorian shrimp,” Nath said. “These are people who might not even know that our shrimp comes from aquaculture. So there’s a lot of [education] we can still do.”

The SSP is excited to work with the Global Shrimp Council on its nascent branding and marketing campaign, which will extend and amplify its own efforts, Nath said.

 “It’s great to see their commitment to shaping the future that we want to achieve,” she said. “Anything we can do to increase or try to increase seafood consumption and give more information so people can make informed choices, we will do.”

Nath said SSP also wants to continue to work with its associate members, which include BASF, BioMar, DSM-Firmenich, INVE Aquaculture, Houdek - Prairie Aquatech, MSD Animal Health, Skretting, and Vitapro, to absorb their perspectives and incorporate any ideas they have regarding industry improvement.

"They have good knowledge on so many subjects where it’s good for the shrimp industry to have more information. And they are often working on solutions that can help our value chain be more responsible,” Nath said. “Our partnerships with our associate members seek to merge expertise, networking, and innovative resources to continue encouraging responsible practices. Thus, bringing diverse perspectives and specialized knowledge that complement our efforts. Their dedication to sustainability not only enhances our network but also fosters collaboration among various industry players. At SSP, we recognize that teamwork is essential to achieving our objectives.”

SSP’s desire to increase and improve partnerships with the rest of the industry extends to a desire to boost organizations similar to itself in other shrimp-producing countries, according to Nath.

Ecuador is different from India or Vietnam. They have different issues, concerns, and challenges. But it’s vital to work in a pre-competitive way to get on the same page to generate change and position your industry better. And even just developing willingness in the country to start to work on difficult issues,” Nath said. “What we have seen since we launched SSP is that it is important for someone to take the first step. A lot of topics that are now discussed in the industry globally began at SSP.”

Nath said SSP’s commitment to sustainability has positioned Ecuador at the forefront of the shrimp industry, allowing it to tackle current challenges and anticipate future ones.

“The companies involved, they’re still competitive, but they also work together very well,” Nath said. “It will be interesting to see if that happens in any other countries, and then also with the Global Shrimp Council, because this kind of precompetitive international organization is not easy to create or manage. It takes a lot of effort. But definitely it's worth it when you see results.”

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