Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions' Mariah Boyle: Future promising for industry-NGO collaboration

Conservation Alliance Executive Director Mariah Boyle sees her group as a global hub to support the seafood industry’s adoption of sustainable practices.

The Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions is a non-profit organization working to develop itself into a global hub to support the seafood industry’s adoption of sustainable practices and innovation. The organization’s goal is to “help the industry make sense of the complex sustainability challenges in seafood by working with a broad range of stakeholders to reduce barriers to and increase the seafood industry’s engagement with sustainable and responsible practices.” The work of the organization was highlighted during a session at the recent Seafood2030 Virtual Forum.  

In an interview with SeafoodSource, Conservation Alliance Executive Director Mariah Boyle outlined the direction her organization is taking and its new goal of helping the industry reach 75 percent sustainable global commercial production by 2030.   

SeafoodSource: The Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions has made significant changes and has set ambitious goals for itself as part of its 2020-2024 strategy, a process that included extensive stakeholder outreach and assessing the sustainable seafood landscape. What did you learn from that process and what are some of the challenges you face in your goal of creating a more responsible and sustainable seafood industry?

Boyle: We know that the seafood industry has made significant progress around sustainability and developed strong leadership in the sector, as is evidenced by the number of company commitments and pre-competitive collaborations underway. That said, companies have a lot to manage, like understanding complex emerging issues, improving seafood production practices, and navigating the diverse landscape of pre-competitive groups. That’s where the Alliance comes in. We want to make it easier for the seafood industry to adopt responsible practices. 

The proliferation of tools and resources that were helpful in the early years of the sustainable seafood movement may now be limiting the speed and scale of impact. The Alliance is addressing this issue by assessing available tools, amplifying existing resources, and working with the community to align efforts across projects. Ultimately, this will empower companies to assess their own needs and find the right tools to take action on the issues most important to their business. We’ve also learned that the industry is hungry for more information about social responsibility, and so we’re building the home for the intersectional conversations about human rights and environmental issues that will help industry become leaders in this space. 

SeafoodSource: The Alliance has a new goal that focuses on broad industry adoption of sustainable and responsible practices. Why are you working with this approach instead of a focus on specific species or supply chains?

Boyle: The Alliance’s 10-year goal is incredibly ambitious, aiming for 75 percent of global commercial seafood production to be considered responsible, or making verifiable improvement, with social safeguards in place by 2030. For perspective, currently 34 percent of global commercial seafood is environmentally responsible or improving, when measured using the Certification and Ratings data tool. In order to achieve this goal, we must employ a variety of approaches and partner more broadly. For example, encouraging governments to adopt new policies to strengthen approaches to things like chemical use in aquaculture, IUU [illegal, unreported, or unregulated] fishing, and labor rights could have massively positive impacts for seafood production. By leveraging economic incentives and policy reform, we have the ability to shift large amounts of production toward meeting our 2030 goal while still focusing on improving unsustainable seafood and learning more about unassessed production. 

Our new approach to priority-setting will focus on topics and species with the greatest potential for impact. These efforts will support the industry in making its supply chains and production more responsible and better-aligned with today’s consumer expectations and protein markets. We do this by clarifying expectations for production, aligning economic incentives and policy reform, and using the latest data to inform our decisions.

SeafoodSource: How do companies engage with the Alliance?

Boyle: The Global Hub is the Alliance’s membership community of over 100 organizations and companies around the world working together to improve the sustainability and responsibility of seafood supply chains for our ocean and the people who depend on it. Global Hub members are active participants in our community forum discussions, issue-specific working groups (as appropriate), and provide feedback on Alliance projects as they are developed. Companies can make the most of participating in the Global Hub by joining the conversations that are most useful for their work. Our community calls create the space to engage on a variety of topics, including environmental issues, social responsibility, wild and farmed seafood, corporate commitments and accountability, governance and enforcement, and more. Other benefits of joining the Global Hub include recognition on the Alliance website, the opportunity to inform Alliance strategy and provide feedback on documents, and access to the Alliance community of experts through engaging on our online platform and community calls. While there are no Global Hub dues, sponsorship opportunities exist for those that would like to be recognized for supporting our work. The Alliance Virtual Annual Meeting coming up [in] November is a great way to get involved and learn more about how our community works together.

SeafoodSource: What are some of the specific projects you are working on?

Boyle: The Alliance is continuing to create clarity for industry by identifying the top tools and resources available, hosting calls to discuss emerging issues, and co-creating expectations for production. For example, we recently authored a statement calling for our community to rally around the new FisheryProgress Human Rights and Social Responsibility Policy and a blog on new social responsibility tools from the Global Hub to help compare and contrast available resources. We have also launched a collaborative project to update the Alliance Guidelines for Supporting Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs) in order to address recent research findings and better incorporate social responsibility. Companies and other stakeholders can provide input on that process and help shape the future of FIPs by becoming a member of the Global Hub. And soon, we will publish a progress update on our 10-year goal that identifies priority topics for which the Alliance will facilitate community discussion so that we can better align efforts and identify gaps.   

Photo courtesy of Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions


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