2018 Seafood Champion Award winners revealed

Guy Dean of Albion Farms and Fisheries, Pelagic Data Systems, Open Blue, and Labour Rights Promotion Network Foundation founder Patima Tungpuchayakul are the latest Seafood Champion Awards winners to be recognized for their outstanding contributions to the seafood sustainability movement. 

Selected from a pool of 17 finalists, the 2018 Champions “reflect a seafood marketplace striving for even greater environmental, social, and economic sustainability,” said Diversified Communications, an organizer of the SeaWeb Seafood Summit in partnership with SeaWeb. 

This year’s Summit – held in Barcelona, Spain, from 18 to 22 June at the city’s famed Hotel Arts – featured a reception celebrating each of the esteemed award recipients, including an activist who rescued more than 3,000 trafficked fishers in Southeast Asia; the innovators of a solar-powered vessel tracking system for artisanal fishers; a company pioneering open ocean alternatives to near-shore aquaculture; and a widely-admired 30-year sustainable seafood veteran.

Nearly 100 nominees were submitted for the 2018 Seafood Champion Awards, for one of four categories: leadership, innovation, vision, and advocacy. A panel of seafood sustainability experts from industry and nonprofit organizations based in Asia, Europe, and North America narrowed down the vast crop of nominated individuals and organizations to 17 finalists back in March, eventually picking today’s winners as the standouts. 

Guy Dean, vice president and chief sustainability officer of Albion Farms and Fisheries, received the Seafood Champion Award for Leadership for his almost 30 years of dedication to the industry and the seafood sustainability cause. Dean has served in a variety of roles all along the seafood supply chain, from farmer, harvester, and fisher, to processor and distributor. He represents the seafood industry on the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Multi-stakeholder Committee and is also the co-founder of Sea Pact, a group of seafood companies committed to improving the social, economic, and environmental performance of the global seafood supply chain. 

"Guy not only understands what needs to happen, he is able to get his company to back his ideas, and that is truly inspiring," said awards judge Richard Boot, President of FishChoice, of Dean’s win. "Guy has gone over and above his job to be a champion and leader in sustainable seafood. He is a driving force behind issues such as plastics and transparency, and is a thought leader in the space."

The Seafood Champion Award for Innovation went to Pelagic Data Systems (PDS) for its creation of the Ultra-Light System, a vessel tracking technology suite that is completely solar-powered, affordable, and compatible with boats of all sizes. An autonomous data collection device no larger than a smartphone, the Ultra-Light System records vessel location and transmits over a secured cellular network. Since its inception in 2014, PDS has launched programs in over 15 different countries.

The traceability system offers "an incredible necessity that benefits the full spectrum of stakeholders from the fishers to the importers to the buyers ... Without traceability solutions for the artisanal sector, we lose the ability to harness market forces to incentivize change and reward better performers," said Jennifer Kemmerly of Monterey Bay Aquarium, who also presided as a judge on the awards panel. 

In the Seafood Champion Awards Vision category, Open Blue emerged victorious for its decade-long effort to revolutionize the mariculture industry by moving it into the open ocean, far removed from sensitive near shore ecosystems. The company’s native cobia fish are cultivated twelve kilometers off the coast of Panama in proprietary SeaStations, which are fully submerged at depths of up to 100 feet. Vertically-integrated from egg to plate, Open Blue Cobia became the world’s first ASC-certified cobia operation in January 2018. Additionally, it is also the world’s first company capable of offering four-star Best Aquaculture Practice (BAP)-certified cobia.

Open Blue as a company is "progressive, forward facing and daring," said New Zealand fisherman and awards judge Karl Warr. "Open Blue has had the vision to grow fish from the outset in a way that addresses all of the environmental considerations. They have not grown as quickly as they might have if they disregarded these issues, but they had the vision to do it for the sake of open ocean aquaculture."

It was Patima Tungpuchayakul, founder of the Labour Rights Promotion Network Foundation, who received the Seafood Champion Award for Advocacy in 2018. Tungpuchayakul, who has been an activist for more than two decades, has been integral in spreading awareness about chronic human rights violations and has worked to improve the lives of migrant workers and the laws governing their employment. She rescued 3,000 trafficked workers stranded on remote islands in Indonesian waters by the Thai fishing industry between August 2014 and October 2016, leaving lasting positive change for the seafood industry and far beyond it. 

"Patima's work is not always visible to the industry, but she has done an amazing job at uncovering labor atrocities, and freeing workers that have been enslaved," noted awards judge Dick Jones, CEO of Ocean Outcomes. "She does this work with no concern for her own safety, often putting herself in harm's way. She is a true advocate for positive change." 

More information about the Seafood Champion Awards can be found at www.seafoodchampions.org.


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