The seafood sector has seen an explosion of innovation development over the last 20 years to address some of the industry’s biggest environmental and labor challenges. Certification, fishery improvement projects, benchmarking, audits and assessments, ratings, supply chain and traceability tools, and pre-competitive collaborations are all innovations developed to help seafood become more sustainable and more competitive in global protein markets.
Although the sector and its partners have worked to develop innovation, the seafood industry has not seen widespread adoption of those innovations across seafood supply chains. While this is a problem for the seafood industry – leaving it exposed to supply chain and reputational risk – it is not a problem unique to the industry.
“The Chasm” is widely accepted innovation adoption theory developed by Geoffrey Moore to help business understand the market dynamics around product category innovation adoption (as opposed to product innovation). As explained in “Seafood2030’s The Chasm: Understanding Innovation Adoption and Diffusion, Crossing the Chasm makes the case for a distinct difference between the adoption drivers for the early part of the marketplace, the innovators and early adopters, and the adoption drivers for the rest of the marketplace. Innovators and early adopters tend to adopt innovation that fits with their vision for their company and the future. The rest of the marketplace tends to be more pragmatic or they adopt only when necessary – when their business mission critical business strategy is broken.
The Sustainable Fisheries Partnership’s supplier roundtables are one of the leading efforts in seafood focused on “Crossing the Chasm” and engaging the broader industry. The SFP roundtable model aligns with innovation adoption theory like The Chasm by recognizing and addressing the different motivations and needs of the majority of seafood companies trying to incorporate more sustainable practices into their business.
In a four-part series, Seafood2030 and SeafoodSource interviewed key players in SFP’s supplier roundtables to learn more about how they are pushing for wider adoption of sustainable practices in the global seafood industry. Part one features Sarah Hussey, the fisheries manager for Sea Farms Ltd., a Worcestershire, U.K.-based seafood wholesaler. Hussey is also the chair of Sustainable Fisheries Partnership's global squid roundtable.
SeafoodSource: Why was the supplier roundtable model the right approach for your company and for improving the sustainability of squid?
Hussey: We felt that as a company, the squid roundtable gave us the collaborative forum with which to discuss sustainability issues. We knew we wouldn’t be able to tackle the challenge of making squid fisheries sustainable alone and needed the support from the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) and the influence of other seafood companies. Improving the management of supply fisheries also requires collaboration among buyers and suppliers, and the supplier roundtable is a great forum to connect with industry peers and develop or support fishery improvement projects or lobby jurisdictional authorities. SFP have been an incredibly supportive secretariat for the roundtable and it’s great to see the group evolve to focus on Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing issues and be able to discuss human rights risks. As seafood buyers, we need to be having these difficult discussions so we can come up with real workable solutions and put steps in place in our supply chains to safeguard against it. Incoherent policy and lack of regulation and enforcement have allowed squid stocks to become vulnerable to overfishing and IUU fishing, and, despite its large commodity value, squid is not afforded anywhere near the same protection as tuna. In 2020, market insights predicted that the global squid market will be worth USD 11.6 billion (EUR 11.3 billion) by the end of 2025. The squid roundtable is not only a resource hub of information, but a way of holding seafood companies to account for sourcing responsibly and ethically.
SeafoodSource: Does the work in the roundtable feel like you are improving the reliability of your supply chain as much as you are improving the health of squid fisheries?
Hussey: Absolutely. Sea Farms Ltd. has always worked closely with its suppliers and worked tirelessly on due diligence but needed to do more. We worked on our squid supply chain for several years before helping to launch a fishery improvement project (FIP). The roundtable allowed us to connect with other buyers who became participants, which was integral to the FIP. It really does need to be a collective effort, and include others along the supply chain, for it to have the most impact and every chance of success. The narrative surrounding the roundtables is not solely around FIPs, but other sustainable initiatives too. A FIP registered on FisheryProgress.org helps the reliability of a supply chain, as there is accountability through its governance. Ultimately, we need full transparency throughout the supply chain.
SeafoodSource: The SFP Global Squid Roundtable has 29 members. How does that buying power and influence help the roundtable impact issues like IUU and RFMO management?
Hussey: As seafood buyers, we have to harness the influence we have, which is exactly that, purchase power. Collectively, we have a stronger voice. Our challenge in the IUU arena is due to lack of policy and legislation globally, so we have to strategically work out where our efforts are best placed to bring about real tangible change. We are all working together, despite being potential competitors, to drive improvements across the industry.
Some proactive members wanted to work on the ever-increasing risk of IUU fishing within squid fisheries and with SFP’s help, we set to work on developing a dedicated working group to analyze the current risks and actions we could implement. Seafood companies which have signed up to the group have a time-bound pledge to implement eight commitments relating to responsible sourcing, one example being, companies will check vessels against IUU blacklists. It’s imperative to add that we do not want to replicate the work of other groups and we will collaborate where possible and appropriate. When it comes to regional fisheries management organizations’ management, or lack of it, we use our collective voice to try and influence the ratification of legislation, or implementation of certain management strategies.
SeafoodSource: Why is it important to provide assurance to customers and consumers that the whole sector is sustainable?
Hussey: As a seafood business, its pertinent to point out that working to improve the whole sector creates a more level playing field and can only be positive for the industry. The roundtable bought those of us who invested resource into various FIPs together. It was an opportunity to learn from one another. What is working? What challenges are participants facing? It would have been great to see more companies sourcing squid become FIP participants and active members in the roundtable, but I think this, along with the narrative will now start to change. This will include social issues which are linked to the risk of IUU fishing. If I think back to my first introduction to the squid roundtable, in 2017, it’s clear how far the conversation has come and how much great work has been achieved since that time.
Squid are a short-lived species, which makes stock assessments difficult to calculate. They are highly migratory, and this combined with extensive fishing on the high seas with a lack of management and traceability, causes significant risks to squid stocks. We have a long road ahead of us, and with everyone at different stages it will take time, but we are dedicated to driving improvement across the industry.
Photo courtesy of Sarah Hussey/LinkedIn