Latest SOLI workshop offers a sneak peak into the program’s future

Climate change represents one of the biggest threats to the success of the seafood industry, but the complexity of its impact on fisheries is a difficult concept to grasp without a formal education on the subject. The Sustainable Oceans Leadership Institute (SOLI) hopes to change that.

Kicking off in 2020, the SOLI program aims to give attendees access to scientists and local stakeholders across the globe to learn more about what affects climate change is having on their communities and way of life.

Several early arrivals to the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s (GAA) 2019 GOAL conference in Chennai, India this week got a sneak-peak at what the program aims to give participants during the first run-through of the program. The sneak-peak consisted of meeting with local fishermen at Chennai’s fishing harbor, meeting a shrimp farmer roughly 60 kilometers from the city, and meeting with local scientists to learn what kinds of mitigations and research they’ve been performing in their region.

Throughout the workshop, S. Velvizhi of the M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) gave attendees a local perspective on the fisheries industry, both wild-caught and aquaculture, in addition to serving as a translator during meetings with locals.

The event also featured presentations by experts in the field of aquaculture, such as V.S. Chandrasekaran, the principal scientist with the Central Institute of Brackish Water Aquaculture. He gave an overview of the efforts his organization has made to improve the productivity of aquaculture facilities in India through research and application of science.

Velvizhi, the MSSRF, and the meetings with local fishermen and other stakeholders are good representations of what the SOLI program hopes to achieve, Ellen Grant, chief operating officer of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI), told SeafoodSource.

“I think that’s going to be a big part of SOLI. Wherever we are, we will be engaging with the fishermen and the processors and the different aspects of the seafood supply chain,” she said. “There’s nothing like the information coming directly from the mouths of these different people.”

Grant and GMRI will both be integral parts of the SOLI program in 2020, which is designed to both be an educational resource for attendees – who can come from any part of the globe – and a way for attendees to meet professionals from other aspects of the seafood industry.

“We can all be quite isolated in our little silos, and in a program like this where people are going to spend 10 days together, there’s a lot of learning that can happen,” Grant said. “Our goal is to have a very diverse group, so it’s people from all over the world, different roles in the seafood industry, so they can learn a lot from each other as well.”

GMRI is one of the leading organizations when it comes to researching climate change's impact on the seafood industry, largely due to the circumstances of the Gulf of Maine. Statistics gathered indicate that the Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 99 percent of the ocean, making it a case-study for what could happen in other regions of the globe as climate change begins to affect the ocean.

“That’s really the reason for partnering with GMRI, because we are on the forefront of the science of climate change and fisheries,” Grant said.

GAA Board Chair Wally Stevens is the brainchild behind the new SOLI program, which is intended to have a greater focus on the science surrounding climate change.

“People need to understand the science behind this,” Stevens said.

The first ever SOLI program is slated to take place in 2020, according to Grant.

“The SOLI program is going to start at GMRI, and that will be the first session in a complementary timeframe to the Seafood Expo North America,” she said. “We will be either on the front end or the back end of that show.”

Photo courtesy of Chris Chase/SeafoodSource


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