Seafood Champion Awards finalists revealed at kick-off of SENA19

At the opening of the 2019 Seafood Expo North America today in Boston, Massachusetts, SeaWeb, and Diversified Communications announced the 17 finalists in the running for 2019 Seafood Champion Awards.

Representative of a diverse cross-section of individuals, governmental organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and seafood companies from around the world, this year’s finalists “exemplify the incredible work being done by the seafood industry and key stakeholders to make seafood a healthy, environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable protein,” SeaWeb and Diversified said in a new release. [Editor’s note: Diversified Communications also owns and operates SeafoodSource.] 

The Seafood Champion Awards, which will be presented in Bangkok, Thailand, during the SeaWeb Seafood Summit on 11 June – seek to elevate under-represented voices, promote gender diversity, and recognize those who commit to advancing seafood sustainability in a variety of impactful ways.

“This year’s nominations demonstrate that change can come from anyone, anywhere and reflect how collaborations across culture, gender and industry silos are critical to advancing the sustainable seafood movement,” said Meghan Jeans, who serves as the SeaWeb program director at The Ocean Foundation.

The 2019 finalists reflect a broad spectrum of interests and expertise, whether they’re promoting market-based approaches to improve seafood sustainability, enhancing social equity for small fishers, or advancing unique approaches to vessel monitoring as a means to fortify maritime security and sustainability, according to SeaWeb and Diversified.  

Each finalist falls into one of four categories: Leadership, Innovation, Vision, and Advocacy.

The Seafood Champion Award for Leadership honors individuals and organizations that bring stakeholders together to improve seafood sustainability and/or ocean health. The 2019 finalists for this category, as announced by Diversified, include:

  • Susan Jackson is president of the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF), a global partnership of scientists, tuna processors, environmental non-profits, and others focused on tuna stock conservation and the marine ecosystem. Jackson founded ISSF with tuna industry leaders and the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) and, under her leadership, ISSF has been a valuable conduit for collaboration for conservationists as well as business leaders worldwide by bringing together science, industry, and environmental NGOs and government stakeholders working towards the long-term sustainability of tuna stocks.
  • World Animal Protection’s Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI) is a multi-stakeholder alliance that drives solutions to the problem of lost and abandoned fishing gear around the world. GGGI aims to improve the health of ocean ecosystems, protect marine animals from harm, and safeguard human health and livelihoods. It is the first initiative dedicated to tackling the problem of ghost fishing gear at a global scale. [Editor's note: It is with great sadness that SeafoodSource shares news of the passing of Joanna Toole, co-founder of the GGGI, who was on board Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 when it crashed on Sunday, 10 March.]
  • Wakao Hanaoka established Seafood Legacy, a social venture based in Tokyo, Japan that provides sustainable seafood consulting services. Since the organization's founding in 2015, Hanaoka has focused on building Japan-centric solutions for seafood sustainability by addressing the importance of domestic, business-led initiatives to drive regulatory reforms. As a Japan-based organization, Seafood Legacy and Wakao are building bridges between the Japanese market and the global sustainable seafood community to accelerate positive change and strengthen harmony between the industry and the marine conservation community, a key value in Japanese business culture. Recently, his initiative formed a partnership with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, bringing the seafood sustainability movement into the mainstream in Japan.
  • Hannah Macintyre is the aquaculture and fisheries manager for Marks and Spencer (M&S), a U.K.-based retailer of food, clothing, and furniture. In 2018, under Macintyre’s leadership, M&S launched a platform to allow consumers to trace their products, affirming that 100 percent of M&S’s seafood products are sourced from sustainable fisheries. This platform is a first of its kind for a retailer, effectively propelling M&S to the forefront of the sustainable seafood movement. Within the U.K. retail space, Macintyre is responsible for M&S’s robust sustainable seafood policy that wins consumer trust (some 21 million M&S customers each week) and NGO backing (the enterprise is repeatedly ranked as a ‘Top Tuna Brand’ by Greenpeace).

The Seafood Champion Award for Innovation recognizes those who identify and apply new solutions to ecological challenges, market needs, or sustainability barriers. This year’s finalists are:

  • Blue Star Foods is a seafood company working to improve the lives of artisan fishers and the sustainability of the fishery. Artisanal fisheries have unique socio-economic and environmental challenges that are often overlooked by the global sustainable seafood community. Overcoming these barriers to sustainability requires innovative solutions. Blue Star Food’s unique approach to small-scale blue swimming crab fisheries in Indonesia and the Philippines is contributing to more socially responsible and environmentally sustainable fisheries. In addition to creating an innovative traceability application that uses machine learning to analyze catch data for fishery monitoring, Blue Star has established fishing cooperatives that shield fisherman from predatory loans by offering microfinancing at low rates and the ability to create a savings account from a percentage of their profit. The company is also spearheading group registration efforts and drastically reducing the registration cost for crab fishers.
  • OceanMind brings an innovative approach to vessel monitoring, control, and surveillance (MCS), one that combines technological tools and law-enforcement-style capacity building to create a culture of compliance in the oversight of a country’s fishing fleet. A few years ago, the organization brought its pioneering approach and its ability to build strong partnerships to pursue a program of work with the Royal Thai Government’s Department of Fisheries (DOF) to provide MCS support and to build capacity, as the government created agencies, processes, and onboarded technology to gain control over their sizeable commercial fishing fleet.
  • Catalina Offshore Products’ (COP) project, A Culinary Engineering Approach to Increasing the Value of Local Fisheries: Reducing Fish Discards at Sea and Promoting Full Utilization, is helping local fishermen increase the value of their catch. The project is a partnership between COP, scientists at the NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center, San Diego fishermen, and leading chefs, all working together to improve the sustainability of local fisheries.
  • Pacifical is the pioneer of the first large scale blockchain initiative within the tuna industry – the system covers its entire supply chain of about 35 million tuna caught annually in an area 40 percent bigger than Europe and more than 200 million consumer units per year in over 23 countries can be traced and verified through the Ethereum blockchain.

The Seafood Champion Award for Vision recognizes distinctive visions that significantly advance the sustainable seafood community. The finalists are:

  • Janice Lao has been working tirelessly behind the scenes in the corporate world to persuade her business colleagues to shift towards better sustainability practices in buying and offering sustainable seafood. She was instrumental in shifting the major Asian airlines on the non-carriage of shark fins and was listed in Forbes as one of the top female sustainability leaders and was awarded the 2019 Edie Sustainability Leader of the Year Award. She is now the director of group corporate responsibility and sustainability at The Hongkong & Shanghai Hotels.
  • Dr. Darian McBain leads Thai Union’s sustainability initiatives and activities. Over the last five years, her leadership has transformed Thai Union into a leader in sustainability in the food service industry, as noted in the 2018 Dow Jones Sustainability Index. McBain also created SeaChange, a comprehensive set of commitments and actions to ensure that Thai Union is operating sustainably and constantly improving to help change the seafood industry for good.
  • The Organization of Producers of Frozen Tuna’s (OPAGAC) “Atún de Pesca Responsable (APR)” or Tuna from Responsible Fishing AENOR certification is the first fisheries certification scheme in the world to include International Labour Organization's Convention 188 as the reference to Decent Work at sea on board fishing vessels. It also has a Chain of Custody regulation certified by AENOR and before next summer, the first can of tuna will be able to have the APR logo, as a warranty of Decent Work and Responsible fishing. The current APR standard can now be applied by any tuna fishing vessel, irrespective of their flag, and therefore can be used right away for those that want to certify their fishing activities.
  • AquaSpark, an investment fund with a focus on sustainable aquaculture businesses around the world, is catalyzing entrepreneurship and pushing a vision highlighting the importance of sustainable aquaculture as a means of feeding a growing population. Investing in small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs), AquaSpark is working to promote the production of safe, accessible and environmentally responsible marine and aquatic life. In the last five years, AquaSpark has invested in 16 early-stage companies that are making big impacts in the aquaculture sector.
  • Austral started as the first seafood business to join with WWF and Unilever in the MSC initiative in 1996. It obtained certification of its four main fisheries as sustainable and well-managed by 2012, all while harnessing the power of legal industry and collaborations with NGOs and governments to eliminate IUU fishing of toothfish by setting up a group called COLTO (Coalition of Legal Toothfish Operators). The journey continued further in 2016, with Austral offsetting their carbon footprint. In 2018, Austral collaborated to develop technological tools with WWF and Boston Consulting Group Digital Ventures, to harness blockchain traceability in the seafood production sector, linked to transparency, provenance, and quality control of their seafood products.

The Seafood Champion Award for Advocacy recognizes the promotion of sustainability, use of the media to raise the profile of sustainable seafood, work to strengthen public policy and resource allocations, and championing of advances in sustainable seafood. 2019 finalists in this category include: 

  • Francisco Blaha has a diversity of experience and expertise in fisheries production and management, including serving crew member and a fisheries observer in the squid, hake, and toothfish fleets in Southern Argentina. Blaha has served as a fisher in the tuna longline fishery and in New Zealand, as a councilor to the NZ Seafood Standards Council, as an R&D officer at a fishing company, and as a consultant in more than 50 countries for a range of development organizations. He also earned a master's degree in fisheries biology from Argentina’s fisheries research and development institute (INIDEP) and a second master's in food science from Auckland University. With this background, he brings a unique perspective to advocating for sustainability and good fisheries management and has worked to educate and advance good management with everyone in the supply chain from fishers to international institutions.
  • COMEPESCA is building a Mexican sustainable seafood movement. COMEPESCA, a multi-stakeholder group comprised of predominantly industry members, is dedicated to promoting the consumption of Mexican seafood products. It has designed and implemented #PescaConFuturo (or “fishing with a future”), a first of its kind campaign to promote the consumption of sustainable Mexican seafood and build the voice of responsible seafood producers and distributors.
  • G16 Group is a collection of 20 developing Coastal States in the Indian Ocean region that collaborate for a stronger voice in order to responsibly and fairly manage the shared tuna resources in the region. Such fisheries are immensely important for food security in addition to fueling local economies, however, the management decisions have been historically dominated by industrialized fleets from afar. At a time when key Indian Ocean tuna stocks are showing signs of over-exploitation the G16’s work is helping to improve management and conservation in a way that is both sustainable and equitable.
  • Stephen Fisher, the sustainability director at Sea Delight, a Florida-based seafood supplier, leveraged his role as an industry leader to support sustainable management of trans-boundary fisheries. He directly and publicly engaged with RFMO delegates, the individuals who are the decision makers, with the express aim of getting action on swordfish and mahi mahi. Fisher made explicit reference to “market needs” in his intervention, which both highlighted the sustainability credentials of the seafood marketplace, and put pressure on the RFMO to act in the best long-term interests of the catching sector (which is often overlooked for short-term gains). The significance of this was reflected in the chair of the WCPFC comments that she was pleased to hear suppliers were beginning to gain interest in the RFMO process and noted that their participation is needed.

More information on the awards and the finalist can be found at


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