In wake of AP investigation, Sea to Table founder defends business
In the wake of a lengthy Associated Press report that claimed Sea to Table mislead customers as to the origins of its seafood, the company is defending its business model and reputation.
A press release issued by the founder of the company, Sean Dimin, said that the article exaggerated and made misleading claims about the company. In addition, multiple attempts to reach the AP about documentation on the DNA testing the report used to link Sea to Table with questionable labor practices were rebuffed.
“The outreach was done in the spirit of honest reporting, and to provide a balanced view of the situation. Unfortunately, the company’s requests to meet and obtain documentation were flatly denied,” stated Sea to Table.
The AP story, which gained widespread press coverage, detailed multiple allegations including that the company was sourcing tuna from companies that engaged in labor abuse, was claiming to sell fish from boats that hadn’t left the harbor in years, and was offering canary rockfish even though the fish was illegal to catch at the time.
Sea to Table disputes the claim that it was sourcing tuna from Pacific waters, citing the preliminary nature of DNA testing to prove tuna origin. It also stated that it only offered canary rockfish after 2015, when the fishery had been rehabilitated to levels that allowed fishing.
The company also quoted outside experts who offered their commentary defending Sea to Table.
“In their quest to document seafood fraud and human rights abuse one has to wonder why the AP reporters have gone after a company that is trying to be among the best,” said Ray Hilborn, professor at the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington, in the company’s press release. “Even if the majority of the AP accusations were true, Sea to Table would still be among the most reliable suppliers of fish to American markets. Sea to Table and other companies that try to link consumers to fish of known source are not ‘preying’ on consumers’ good intentions but attempting to further fisheries sustainability and good management practice.”
Dave Rudie, president of Catalina Offshore Products and chair of the Highly Migratory Species subpanel for the Pacific Management Council, said he had been contacted before the report was published, but his comments were never used.
“The authors became sidetracked, villainizing Sea to Table and failing to show objectivity,” Rudie said. “While at first the article appears to offer a well-thought out investigation into a subject that is worthwhile and important, it is intellectually dishonest and misleading.”
Dimin said that the company was founded on the idea of transparency and traceability, and that as the scale of the company grew, it “experienced many of the same issues as other disruptors championing a better way to improve old industry ways.”
“We feel the greatest asset to our business is to be open and transparent about our practices,” Dimin said. “There are specific opportunities for us to improve our systems and communication, and we will continue to do so, knowing that our work is making real positive change.”
The release came, according to Sea to Table, before another AP article is due to release that interviews “disgruntled ex-employees.”
“The AP also confirmed they will be moving forward with a second article, having apparently spoken with disgruntled former employees,” wrote Sea to Table.
Facing the allegations, said Dimin, has been difficult for the company, which has suffered several losses as customers stop working with the firm.
“Small businesses like Sea to Table are not equipped to defend themselves against an international news organization like the Associated Press,” Dimin said. “Sea to Table is a mission-based organization dedicated to bringing integrity and transparency to the seafood supply chain while celebrating America’s fishing culture. Our team is fully dedicated to this purpose. We are proud of who we are and are proud of our work.”