Seafood Champion Awards announced

The winners of 2017 Seafood Champion Awards have been announced, and include individuals and organizations working to improve the sustainability of seafood both in their local communities and worldwide.

The winners, chosen from more than 100 nominations and a group of 16 finalists, include Susi Pudjiastuti, Indonesia’s Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries; FISH-i Africa, a partnership of eight East African countries; Matthew Beaudin, executive chef of the Monterey Bay Aquarium; Ned Bell, Ocean Wise executive chef at the Vancouver Aquarium and founder of Chefs for Oceans; and the International Pole and Line Foundation (IPNLF).

A reception on 5 June at Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle, Washington, U.S.A., during the SeaWeb Seafood Summit saw the winners honored for their respective contributions. The awards, which have been handed out annually since 2006 to world leaders who have demonstrated outstanding commitment to advancing seafood sustainability, are the seafood community's premier honor recognizing outstanding leadership in promoting environmentally responsible seafood.

“The 2017 Seafood Champions demonstrate that courage and creativity can drive progress on seafood sustainability worldwide,” SeaWeb and The Ocean Foundation President Mark Spalding said. “These champions have made smart use of strategies and tools tailored to their unique situations. Some employed teamwork and diplomacy to patiently overcome resistance. Others took bold actions. All have shown the determination and leadership that are the core qualities of seafood champions.”

This year, there were five winners in the four award categories, with the IPNLF and Bell sharing the award for advocacy. 

“IPNLF earned its place at the top for spearheading Indian Ocean tuna fisheries reform, most notably the adoption of a precautionary harvest strategy by the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission – a huge leap forward for global tuna management,” according to SeaWeb’s announcement. 

“This award is both a great honor for IPNLF and an important milestone in our progress. Not only does it acknowledge the tireless efforts and determination of our team to get a job done; it also recognizes how even a small organization can bring about significant change,” the organization said. “[The award] sends a clear message to stakeholders everywhere that management bodies can and will respond to sufficient constructive pressure to safeguard stocks and livelihoods. This award will further inspire us to continue our work with policy makers to safeguard the future of these resources as well as the fishing communities that depend on them.”

Bell, of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, “has made sustainable seafood his mission,” according to SeaWeb’s awards announcement. Through his nonprofit Chefs for Oceans, and through a 2014 bike ride in which he rode 8,700 kilometers across Canada, Bell has succeeded in raising awareness for sustainable seafood.

“Being nominated and winning the Champion Award for Seafood Advocacy is one of the greatest accomplishments of my culinary career,” Bell said. “This extraordinary award will allow me to dive deeper in my work as an educator, mentor and as leader amongst my peers who strive for change and healthy lakes, oceans and rivers globally.

The Seafood Champion Award for Leadership went to Susi Pudjiastuti, Indonesia’s Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries since 2014. Pudjiastuti has taken a hard line against illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing; fought against the use of forced labor on fishing vessels; and banned the use of bottom trawlers in Indonesia.

Matthew Beaudin, executive chef of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, won the Seafood Champion Award for Vision “for leading the shift to local and sustainable seafood within the Monterey Bay restaurant scene,” according to SeaWeb. In 2016, Beaudin visited more than 20 cities to promote Seafood Watch and responsible sourcing. 

“He is a regional and cross-border leader, having also developed aquaponics programs to support HIV-positive orphans in Mexico,” SeaWeb said.

“The sustainability of the world's food systems and in particular the seafood supply chain is complex and will require more than a boardroom or text book answer. The sustainability and viability of the world oceans is an opportunity too; and will require a global effort on all fronts from people of all diversities to come together with a common goal and ideals that the future of seafood is important not just to us, but to those who will come after us; it will be our legacy or our failure - we have just to decided,” Beaudin said. “I am so deeply honored to be recognized among such driven leaders and entrepreneurs worldwide helping to raise awareness and sound the call to action on all fronts and accept this award humbly on each of their behalves.”

FISH-i Africa, a partnership of eight East African countries, received the Seafood Champion Award for Innovation for sharing information and taking collective enforcement action to combat large-scale illegal fishing. FISH-i’s string of investigations and prosecutions has created a strong deterrence to illegal activity and promoted legitimate operators, according to SeaWeb.

“FISH-i Africa is delighted to be the Seafood Champion for Innovation, 2017. Developing countries are often seen as powerless to prevent or stop the illegal fishing that takes place in their waters. FISH-i has challenged this perception: with a low cost solution it has proved that united these countries can make significant change,” the organization said. “This award is recognition for all the Task Force members who have been prepared to do things differently, to work together with their neighbors and to really take on the challenge of stopping illegal fishing. Illegal fishing undermines efforts for sustainability and should be a concern for everyone involved in the seafood industry. We hope this award will enable FISH-i to grow its network and to work more closely with the seafood industry to improve transparency and sustainability.”

This year’s winners were chosen from 115 nominees working in 43 countries, “reflecting a sector that is increasingly global, collaborative and distributed throughout the supply chain,” SeaWeb said.

“This year’s Seafood Champions show an important trend: [that] providing practical and affordable solutions for small-scale fishers and developing nations is now a priority,” Katie Miller, the sustainable seafood project lead for United Kingdom-based ClientEarth, and a judge for the 2017 awards, said. “I’m looking forward to seeing how these play out on the water.”


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