Four new Seafood Champions crowned in Bangkok, Thailand at SWSS19

The historic number of Seafood Champions grew by four on 11 June, when Diversified Communications and SeaWeb awarded Wakao Hanaoka, OceanMind, Darian McBain, and Francisco Blaha with the prestigious distinction in Bangkok, Thailand during the 2019 SeaWeb Seafood Summit this week. 

The winners were chosen from a group of 17 finalists and are each regarded as seafood sustainability leaders committed to creatively and faithfully supporting the movement as it evolves, Diversified said in a press release. They were recognized during a special reception on the evening of Tuesday, 11 June at the Shangri-La Hotel in Bangkok, where the summit is being held from 10 to 15 June. 

“Once again the Seafood Champion Awards bring together a collection of inspirational stories that exemplify the great work being done to make seafood more sustainable and more ethical,” Diversified Communications Group Vice President Liz Plizga said. “We want to recognize and thank all our Seafood Champion Awards Finalists for the important work they are doing. The 17 finalists show how companies, governments, non-profits, and individuals are all having a positive impact on seafood across the globe.” 

Change and progress are hallmarks of the 2019 Seafood Champion Awards recipients – the winners have been involved with changing how a country perceives sustainable seafood; transforming industry and supply chains; shifting how governments regulate fisheries and enforce the law; and redefining how individuals and communities support and benefit from sustainable fisheries.

Hanaoka, founder and CEO of Seafood Legacy, was honored with this year’s Seafood Champion Award for Leadership. A pioneer in Japan’s sustainable seafood movement for more than 15 years, Hanaoka founded Seafood Legacy in 2015, focusing on building country-centric solutions for seafood sustainability by addressing the importance of domestic, business-led initiatives that drive regulatory reforms. His initiative, which is working closely to implement reforms in the lead-up to the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, is making seafood sustainability a new norm in Japan, Diversified and SeaWeb said. 

OceanMind (OM) is the 2019 Seafood Champion Award receipient for Innovation, winning for its unique approach to vessel monitoring, control, and surveillance (MCS) that combines technological tools and law-enforcement-style capacity, creating a culture of compliance in the oversight of a country’s fishing fleet. Incubated at The Pew Charitable Trusts, OM recently began pursuing a program of work with the Royal Thai Government’s Department of Fisheries to provide MCS support and to build capacity as the government establishes agencies, processes, and technology to gain more control over the country's sizeable commercial fishing fleet.

The Seafood Champion Award for Vision was presented to  Darian McBain for her role in transforming major seafood supplier Thai Union Group into a corporate leader in sustainability – not only in the seafood industry, but in the foodservice industry as a whole. Under McBain's leadership, the company was recently named to the top spot in the 2018 Dow Jones Sustainability Index. By way of its corporate program, SeaChange, which serves as a comprehensive set of commitments and actions to ensure that Thai Union is operating sustainably, McBain has engaged with every level of the seafood industry about sustainability – from vessels and manufacturing, to importers and retailers. She has focused on a broad range of sustainability challenges affecting the industry, including human rights abuses, migrant and labor issues, as well as environmental and climate change threats. Thai Union’s commitments and pledges on global platforms, such as the United Nations and World Economic Forum, are also spearheaded by McBain, with the partnerships and collaborations she’s helped to build providing a strong focus to enable the SeaChange strategy.

Francisco Blaha, a fisher, scientist, fisheries inspector, ICT developer, and a communicator, was chosen to receive the 2019 Seafood Champion Award for Advocacy. Considered an innovator in his approach to electronic Catch Documentation Schemes and a professed believer in “sanitizing” power of data, Blaha’s concepts were adopted by the World Wildlife Fund’s expert panel on legal and traceable fish products as well as in the FAO’s expert consultation of CDS, and were supported in the publication of the FAO Fisheries Technical Paper (TP619) on seafood traceability for fisheries compliance, which he authored. An avid fisheries communicator, Blaha presents technical information in plain language with an emphasis on sustainability, transparency, removal of subsidies, MCS, gender balance, and labor rights for fishers and observers. He has “contributed to sustainable seafood most through his work in capacity building, having trained hundreds of people in 50 countries on areas key to legality, safety, and sustainability,” according to SeaWeb.

“We often measure progress in data, graphs, and metrics, but the Seafood Champion Awards put faces and stories to the amazing progress achieved in sustainable seafood,” The Ocean Foundation SeaWeb Program Director Meghan Jeans said.


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