Seaside with Emily Founder Emily De Sousa discusses her growing role as a seafood influencer

SENA interview Chris and Emily

During the Seafood Expo North Amerca/Seafood Processing North America – which ran from 12 to 14 March, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts – SeafoodSource partnered with Emily De Sousa, the CEO of digital educational platform Seaside with Emily, who joined SeafoodSource as a social media correspondent. 

De Sousa promotes sustainable seafood, healthy oceans, culinary adventures, and the rise of pescatourism through her website and via her Instagram and TikTok social media platforms. She travels around the world to speak at seminars, conferences, and forums advocating for ocean protection and seafood sustainability, and has developed a significant following in the seafood space. 

SeafoodSource Editor Chris Chase sat down with De Sousa during the expo for an interview, broadcast live on Instagram, to discuss her growing roll as a seafood influencer.

SeafoodSource: I'm SeafoodSource Editor, Chris Chase, I'm here with Emily De Sousa of Seaside with Emily. She is working with us on our social media partnership throughout Seafood Expo North America 2023. If you haven't been following her yet, you should go follow her because she's been running around the show doing all kinds of cool content highlighting stuff, but this is my chance to kind of nerd out about seafood with her, because I know we're  both seafood nerds. 

We met during our webinar, and I was like, yeah, so we got to talk more.

I'd love to get into your position as a seafood influencer, because I find it really fascinating how you got into that niche because it's  a bit of a weird niche, but you've really been successful at cultivating an audience. How do you build an audience as a seafood influencer?

DeSousa: It's definitely been a convoluted journey. I don't think 10 years ago, if you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I don't know if I would have said seafood influencer. I'm not sure that's a job description. But I've always loved seafood and my family is from the Azores Islands, off the coast of Portugal. So, I grew up eating seafood and was always surrounded by it, but always just loved the ocean.

I went to grad school out of a desire to figure out how we can harvest seafood from the ocean in a way that protects the ecosystem and doesn't hurt it. Coming from an island nation, we are very much the stewards of the ocean, recognizing that if we don't protect our marine resources then we all suffer. I really wanted to see how we could translate that on a global scale in something like the seafood industry that is so globalized.

So, what happened was when I was in grad school, I noticed a massive disconnect between what was happening in fishery science and what the average person knew about seafood.

SeafoodSource: I feel like that will resonate with a lot of people.

De Sousa: The knowledge gap is quite wide, and I think there's a lot of different reasons. The ocean is out of sight out of mind for a lot of people. I think people see the ocean as this mysterious unknown thing, which means also they're curious about it, but simply don't know a lot.

Generally, also about where their food comes from, but I think it's like a gap is a bit wider for seafood. So, while I was in school, I had already been doing a lot of work on social media, in the travel space, food space, but I was kind of feeling a bit unfulfilled. Traveling the world and writing and documenting is obviously a phenomenal way to spend your time. But I really wanted to do something that was more impactful and leveraged the knowledge with skills that I had from my fishery science grad school experience. And so right before COVID, I switched everything over.

SeafoodSource: A heck of a time to do it. It's a good time to go from travel to something else because you know, travel shut down.

De Sousa: Obviously Covid's awful, but I think the timing was almost a bit beneficial to what I was doing because people were eating at home more often. And we know that a lot of consumers specifically in North America are primarily eating seafood in restaurants, and Covid really shifted that toward more eating more at home. But they had no idea how to cook it, how to buy it, and what to do with it. 

They're also more conscious of where their food is coming from because of supply chain issues, and of course the need for healthier options. And so, it was a bit of a perfect storm and what I found was that there's a real appetite for this type of content. People are genuinely curious. They want to know about the oceans and want to know how the ocean is harvested. People will think they have a fishing vessel ...

SeafoodSource: A guy in a yellow slicker with a pipe.

De Sousa: They don't realize the actual diversity of fishing vessels, and ways to capture seafood. I wanted to bring people a step closer to the ocean and a step closer to seafood. And I think the reason that I've been so successful is because people are genuinely interested and demanding more of this content.

As you know, I think the seafood industry in the past has not always done a very good job of making this information accessible to consumers. So, I'm trying to shake things up and make that content more accessible.

SeafoodSource: When we talked in our webinar, it was about how companies can leverage TikTok and social media. Are you kind of helping pioneer that? Most of Gen Z is getting a lot of their news from TikTok, Instagram and social media. Do you think companies really need to focus on that and leverage that, and realize this isn't just a fad, this is a new way of getting information to people and saying here we are let's correct the record on some of these, like you said, misconceptions about aquaculture and fishing?

De Sousa: Definitely. I get it social media is a beast. It's, it's a lot of work. It's very scary, especially if you don't understand it, I can see why people think it's a bit shallow or they don't really want to engage. But the reality is that this is where the world is going. Especially with these younger generations. Millennials Gen Z currently make up the largest buying power in the market. They are the fastest growing demographic of seafood consumers, and they're on these platforms. They are on TikTok, they’re on Instagram and they're looking for short form video content.

They want a 30 second video that explains to them here's how your salmon is farmed, here’s how your oysters are farmed, and here's where your halibut is coming from. They're curious. This generation is also the most educated generation. So they really want to know where their food is coming from. They want to know the impact of their food choices. And like I said, there's this natural curiosity, and so I think companies will only benefit from being more transparent for making information accessible. I think there is a misconception that revealing too much information will somehow backfire. But this is the information age, the age of transparency young people especially they want this content.

I would love to see more seafood companies on TikTok, that would be so fun. It’s very lonely right now and I want more people to interact with.

Photo by SeafoodSource

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