Phillips: Time to invest in fisheries improvement

Since forging a partnership with the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) on the eve of last month’s International Boston Seafood Show, Phillips Foods has been calling on the industry to step up and help fund fisheries improvement projects (FIPs) worldwide.

As part of its agreement with SFP, Phillips donates USD 0.03 per pound of its finfish sales to SFP to fund FIPs. Additionally, sales of Seawings seafood products (Phillips’ exclusive brand with Sysco Corp.) trigger a USD 0.03 per pound donation to SFP. The Baltimore-based company already presented SFP with a USD 5,000 check.

“The industry should fund the programs and be engaged, not just talk about sustainability but invest in sustainability initiatives,” Steve Phillips (pictured), the company’s CEO, told SeafoodSource recently. “To have sustainable fisheries and improvement programs, there has to be a funding mechanism to put money behind the programs. We want to see other large companies join the program because it will make a tremendous difference globally in how we invest in our fisheries.

“It is really important to not just talk about sustainability but to be able to fund FIPs,” added Phillips. “We would love to see other fish processors and importers join this program so we can provide more funding to invest in FIPs. And, as time goes forward, those programs can be more defined and more focused in regards to more species.”

So far, the program has received a lot of positive feedback from Phillips’ customers, according to Ed Rhodes, co-director of the company’s division of aquaculture and sustainability.

“Retail chains are very, very interested in sourcing sustainable fish or from fisheries that have FIPs in place. Our customers are very pleased with the program because rather than just talking about it we’re doing something about it. Retailers like to work with companies that will fund FIPs. It’s viewed in a very positive way by our customers,” said Rhodes.

Phillips does not yet know exactly how the money it’s contributed so far will be distributed, but FIPs are planned for the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia.

In addition to sustainability, the program involves a social responsibility element. Rhodes explained that part of the funding will go toward education. Already in fishing communities in Asia there are posters to educate local fishermen about the importance of sustainability. There are also coloring books to introduce kids to good fishing practices.

“Effort has to go to working with school systems in small rural fisheries to get young people to really understand the importance of making sure we manage them right so they can be enjoyed by future generations,” said Phillips. “It’s not just funding hatcheries or developing programs necessary for the fisheries but very much the education component.

“We want to see other large companies join the program because it will make a tremendous difference globally in how we invest in our fisheries,” he concluded.


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