Op-Ed: The time has come to change the seafood industry
Guy Dean is the vice president and chief sustainability officer of Richmond, British Columbia, Canada-based Albion Farms and Fisheries. He was awarded the 2018 Champion for Leadership at the SeaWeb Seafood Summit in Barcelona, Spain, on 18 June.
As many in the industry know, I was honored and blessed to be the recipient of the “Seafood Champion Award for Leadership” at this year’s Seaweb Seafood Summit in Barcelona, Spain. My nomination, finalist selection and subsequent award was a true surprise and extremely humbling as there are so many amazing people in our industry that deserve recognition more than myself. But the award allowed me time to reflect on the decisions and the road I have taken and to think of all of those that have influenced, mentored and joined me on my journey. Quite a few years ago (more than I care to admit) I made a personal commitment to create positive change within our industry. While I’m passionate about seafood sustainability, this commitment wasn’t just about our environmental impact but included how we sell seafood with ethics and integrity, how we pack and ship our fish, how we treat our employees, fishers and harvesters and how we can create a more successful long-term profitable business model. I didn’t make this commitment because I wanted recognition, I made the commitment because I believe in our industry and the investment we all have made for its long-term viability.
I write to you all for two reasons:
- To thank everyone who has supported me over the last thirty years and my subsequent seafood champion award.
- And to lead a call for action to our industry to make the changes we all know needs to happen - happen now!
We have made great strides in the past 10 years but we are now on the cusp of something much greater. I think we all recognize that we can no longer fight internally - Fresh vs Frozen, Farmed vs Wild, Domestic vs Imported. We have much bigger challenges we need to overcome - social injustices in developing countries, illegal fishing, product misrepresentation, plastics in our industry, sustainability recognition and commitments in East Asia, and how we fund our growth for the next 50 years. There are those that have been at the forefront of change - groups like Sea Pact that have set aside their business and regional conflicts to create impactful change. And now more and more collaborations are occurring internationally for the benefit of both business and industry - groups like SeaBos, GSSI, GDST, SSC, SSP, CSP, GSI (if you don’t know the acronyms - please google them). It’s these types of precompetitive collaborations that are going to make the change we all desire.
But we are on the edge of a tipping point - a tipping point that will require many more global participants. Anyone who was lucky enough to attend the SeaWeb keynote session will remember Lucas Simons’ talk. He outlined how our industry isn’t really different than other industries - just at a different phase in its evolution. He highlighted what is required with market transformation to make our industry a mature sustainable sector. It’s clear we are on the right path but if we want to catch up to coffee, cocoa, or palm oil we need to work together more collaboratively to achieve positive results. We now need to have support from the entire industry. Today we can make a change. Today we can justify our investment and commitment to our industry. Today we can create a tipping point to make our industry whole. But we need everyone to join; to come on board; to help our regional, national and international governments, organizations and influential bodies buy-in to the cause. We need a global vision that we are all held accountable for. And although we may have regional differences that will require different strategies to achieve that vision, the vision is the same for all. Moreover, let’s not reinvent what others have already solved. I’m continually challenged when we, as North Americans, try to create our own model when a working successful model has already been created in Europe or even other industries.
I don’t have all the answers but I do know that I’m tired of attending seafood shows, webinars, summits, and forums where we talk about the same things we talked about last year or the year before. We need to create clear actionable priorities that we can work on immediately and stop setting our goals for 10 and 20 years later. The time for change is now. There are a lot of brilliant individuals in our industry and collectively we can solve many of the challenges that are holding our industry back and push us over the tipping point in a very short time period. Again, I’m humbled by the honor of the leadership award but let’s all be leaders and make this industry the best it can possibly be today.