US, Japan, Spain focus of new Walton Family Foundation markets strategy

The Walton Family Foundation will focus its efforts to improve seafood sustainability on the demand side of the global market, concentrating its efforts on the United States, Japan and Spain, the organization announced at the SeaWeb Seafood Summit in Seattle, Washington on 4 June.

The U.S., Japan and Spain together import more than two-thirds of the world’s globally traded seafood products, and are all major destinations for seafood from the five countries the foundation has targeted in its supply-side sustainability efforts.

“This strategy is about following the flow of fish and dollars from Indonesia, the United States, Mexico, Chile and Peru to those markets where those fish are bought and sold,” said Teresa Ish, the foundation’s Ocean Initiative program officer.

The foundation, created by Walmart founders Sam and Helen Walton, announced in September 2016 that it would commit USD 250 million (EUR 224 million) to marine conservation efforts in those five countries. The focus of the WFF efforts will be to “ensure that the important policies of these major seafood markets helps level the playing field for lagging actors across the industry who haven’t seen that the future of fishing needs to be sustainable, as well as the major producing countries who are putting short-term resource use ahead of the long-term sustainability of their industry,” Ish said.

The seafood markets initiative is part of the foundation’s 2016-2020 ocean strategy that takes a systems approach - working on both the supply and demand side - to promote sustainability in five core countries: Indonesia, Peru, Chile, Mexico and the United States. This systems approach includes:

  • Empowering fishermen and local communities through rights-based management approaches that provide them with secure tenure rights; 
  • Making science-based decisions about annual catch limits, habitat protection and timelines for rebuilding fish stocks;
  • Building capacity for fishermen, governments and civil society; 
  • Reforming public policies to create positive incentives that encourage responsible fishing;
  • Harnessing the market for sustainable seafood to build demand for healthy fisheries practices.

In 2016, the United States imported around USD 2.2 billion (EUR 2 billion) in seafood products from Chile, Indonesia, Mexico and Peru, while Japan imported USD 1.1 billion (EUR 976 million) and Spain brought in USD 290 million (EUR 258 million) in seafood from those four countries combined.

“Our markets approach aims to encourage industry to make investments – of money, time, staffing and brainpower – that raise incomes and improve the quality of life for individual fishermen and fishing communities in these countries,” the foundation said in its report, distributed at SeaWeb.

To accomplish this, the foundation will focus its markets strategy on the following goals, according to the report:

  • Standards to measure sustainability and certify or rate fisheries as they make progress;
  • Relationships between buyers in the U.S, Spain and Japan and conservation non-governmental organizations that facilitate and encourage buyers to make sustainability commitments and work with their suppliers to implement those commitments; eliminate illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) products from their supply chains, and make their supply chains transparent and traceable;
  • Tools that help buyers embed these sustainability policies and procedures into their core businesses;
  • Collaboration between industry leaders, among NGOs and with NGOs and industry together to maintain and advance the movement’s track record of collective impact.

The foundation has set the goal of having at least 75 percent of seafood buyers serving the U.S., Spanish and Japanese markets, integrating sustainable seafood purchasing policies into their core business practices.

“Our aim is to for buyers to fully fund the implementation of sustainability policies and publicly disclose both the content of their policies and their implementation process,” the report said. “As sustainable sourcing becomes the rule, not the exception, we expect buyers in our target import markets to completely eliminate IUU fish from their imports and consistently require workable traceability as a check on sustainability and IUU.”

Ish said achieving those goals will have the effect of leveling the playing field between those who have been early actors in taking steps to improve seafood sustainability and those who have not been as proactive.

“Sustainability used to be a complication, but now it’s part of the core business. It’s actually the answer,” Ish said. “It’s not an add-on. It’s not something more complicated, but it’s part of the future success of this industry.”


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