SeaBOS initiatives demonstrate collaborative power of world’s largest seafood companies

Published on
August 4, 2022
A group photo of the members of the Seafood Business for Ocean Stewardship

Seafood Business for Ocean Stewardship (SeaBOS) has released its first progress report since its launch in 2016, detailing its efforts to improve the sustainability of the seafood industry.

SeaBOS is a collaboration of 10 of the world’s largest seafood companies across the wild capture, aquaculture, and aquafeed production sectors.

The companies involved in SeaBOS are Maruha Nichiro, Nissui, Thai Union, Mowi, Dongwon Industries, Nutreco/Skretting, Cargill, Cermaq, Kyokuyo, and CP Foods, together representing more than 18 percent of global seafood trade value, work with over 500 species, and work in over 95 countries.

SeaBOS is funded by the Walton Family Foundations, the Moore Foundation, and the Packard Foundation. The collaboration for SeaBOS was initiated and first coordinated by Stockholm University’s Stockholm Resilience Centre, in conjunction with the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics at the Royal Swedish Academy of Science, the University of Lancaster, and the Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions.

SeaBOS was born from the idea that keystone industry representatives can have an outsized impact on changing the seafood sector, specifically through a shared mission of “a global transformation towards sustainable production and a healthy ocean.”

Since its founding, SeaBOS has made commitments resulting in a reduction of illegal fishing, better protection of endangered species, progress toward eliminating modern slavery, a lowering of antibiotic use in global aquaculture activity, and a reduction of plastic inventory, the organization said in its report.

Stockholm Resilience Center Professor Henrik Österblom said the report shows the collaboration has been a success.

“We were asking ourselves, do these companies want to engage with each other and with science? Do they want to engage in change in their own operations, and do they want to engage in change for the entire seafood production system? Of course, they want to do that because they’re all completely dependent on a healthy ocean. We started to ask them these questions and now, five years later, we know that the companies can work together with each other and with science, we know that they want to change because they have started to change,” Österblom said. “We don’t know yet if there will be cascading change, but we are seeing interesting indications of that course.”

There are 10 commitments that guide the work of SeaBOS and have been agreed upon by its members: improving transparency, reducing IUU fishing, eliminating modern slavery, developing and deploying new technology, reducing antibiotics use, reducing the use of plastics, developing a science-based approach toward solving issues facing the seafood industry, achieving sustainable growth of the aquaculture sector, supporting innovations, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

SeaBOS members meet formally two times a year but have formed six separate task forces to tackle these 10 commitments with great focus, with agreed-upon time-bound goals for each group, relying on independent research and the sharing of lessons learned from the companies involved.

Among the accomplishments listed in SeaBOS’ report are advances in each of the group’s target initiatives, such as software developed by SeaBOS commercial fishing licenses and crew identities using facial recognition technology; and a separate pilot project that used deck cameras to identify species, catch volume, time and date, and GPS coordinates of all fishing activity, which is then securely stored via blockchain.

SeaBOS has also developed a risk-mapping tool for labor abuse and illegal fishing, and a scientific assessment of best practices in regard to commercial fishing. The SeaBOS companies are currently conducting internal due diligence processes to more completely determine the level of exposure to risks the members have identified, and how to engage with the best practices developed as a result.

One last initiative also being tackled by SeaBOS is how to best trigger positive change in the industry beyond the SeaBOS companies.

“The initiative is something people are inspired by and it creates an imagination of what can be possible and I think that is a really interesting and surprising side effect that is really rewarding,” Österblom said.

Skretting CEO Therese Log Bergjord said the goals set by SeaBOS are not only good for the planet and its inhabitants, but are also proving to be good for the participants’ bottom lines.

“We’ve learned that again, aquaculture and seafood must play an important role for feeding a growing population and we are undereating seafood compared to the recommendation that we have,” Bergjord said. “For me as a business leader, that’s extremely motivating. That means we have to grow and, by nature, we want to grow our businesses. But we have to and we want to do it in the right way, in a sustainable way, along many lines. For me, it’s listening to the long-term objectives, listening to the challenges, talking to the scientists.”

Photo courtesy of SeaBOS

Contributing editor/Reporting from Hawaii, U.S.A.

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