Q&A: Dialogues look to future

By

Steven Hedlund

Published on
January 26, 2010

Jose Villalon, director of the World Wildlife Fund’s aquaculture program in Washington, D.C., talks to SeafoodSource about why 2010 is such a pivotal year for Aquaculture Dialogues, a process the WWF initiated in 2004. Here’s part two of a two-part Q&A; part one ran on Tuesday.

Hedlund: Now that the standards are nearing finalization, does the Aquaculture Dialogues plan to conduct industry outreach and see that the standards are put to work?
Villalon:
With regard to the outreach strategy, this is one of the least-known attributes of the Dialogue process. We haven’t spent a lot of time letting people know how expensive the outreach is. A tremendous amount of effort and expense have been focused on making sure that the relevant stakeholders have a voice in this process. For example, the full Dialogue meetings are always held near major production centers. We weave the [introductory] discussion of the standards into [farmers’] normal day jobs. We’re also really aggressive on the outreach for the public comment period to encourage comments from those who haven’t been overly immersed in the process. For example, in the pangasius aquaculture dialogue, more than 140 individuals offered comment. With tilapia and bivalves, more than 100 pages of comment were generated — more than 70 or 80 participants sent in comments. I would say this is unprecedented in the standard-developing community.

Is the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) still on track to be up and running in 2011?
The ASC is in very good hands with the leadership of Dr. Philip Smith. The steering committee is on track to make the ASC live by mid-2011. Funding is coming in from WWF and the Dutch Sustainable Trade Initiative. We’re also actively looking for more [funding sources]. The process of developing and operating the ASC will be open and transparent, and everyone will be involved in the business-development phase either by being a member of the advisory committee or by choosing to work with Philip Smith on the working groups. And they’ll be asked to continue to provide input either by being on the board of directors or through feedback to the board and the ASC staff.

Will WWF be involved in raising consumer awareness of the ASC and sustainable aquaculture in general?
There’s a place for WWF to work with seafood buyers to help with consumer-awareness programs. But from a return-on-investment perspective, you have 6 billion consumers in the world today, and you have 200,000 to 300,000 farmed seafood producers. But then you probably only have about 200 [supermarket chains] in the world. So if you can educate the retailer about environmentally and socially responsible aquaculture and get them to adopt the standards, then you have actually been pretty effective in creating change with a reasonable amount of effort. The ASC will be a consumer-facing label, similar to the Marine Stewardship Council eco-label.

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