International Coalition of Fisheries Associations raising public profile to magnify impact

IFCA Chair Paul Lansbergen in front of a background of flags
The International Coalition of Fisheries Associations is taking a more public face as it works to advocate on behalf of the fish and seafood industry | Photo by Chris Chase/SeafoodSource
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After over 30 years, the International Coalition of Fisheries Associations (IFCA) is taking steps to have a more public profile.

Founded in 1988, IFCA was first formed between a number of national fish and seafood industry associations to provide a unified voice on global fish and seafood issues. IFCA Chair Paul Lansbergen, who is also the president of the Fisheries Council of Canada, said the organization has historically operated outside of the public eye. 

“It’s been around for quite awhile, but it’s just been quietly in the background,” Lansbergen told SeafoodSource. “We would mostly engage with the [Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations] and our national governments on policy issues, but we weren’t public-facing.”

Lansbergen is leading an effort to raise ICFA's public profile to communicate about seafood industry issues with the public amd to impose a larger influence on national government  policy and international treaty negotiations. The coalition recently launched its first public-facing website to provide a platform for communicating its mission and providing updates on its work. The new site contains a number of informational resources, public statements, and policy positions.

“It’s great that we have positions from the international group speaking for the global industry that ... I [can] send to officials in Canada. But then if they try to look for that same position online, they can’t find it,” Lansbergen said. “We had a page on the [U.S. National Fisheries Institute] website which you have to search [hard] to find, but it was just a boilerplate of information on the group. Now we’ve got a fully fledged website.”

Lansbergen said IFCA is currently focused on issues regarding national and international efforts on marine conservation and biodiversity, as well as on efforts to protect endangered species.

“Because fish and seafood is the most globally traded food commodity, and it is harvested around the world, bycatch or endangered species interactions are important, so there’s international agreements on those types of things,” Lansbergen said. “We need to pay attention to those as they’re considered – the environmental groups are always trying to add more species to those conventions.”

Plastic pollution is another major issue for IFCA and for the seafood industry, with a global plastics treaty in the works

“That one we get a bad rap on, because people think fishing gear is the biggest component of marine plastic pollution, [but] it’s not. It’s from mismanagement of waste from land that gets into 10 key rivers around the world, and then gets out into the ocean,” Lansbergen said. “We’d say for fishing gear that’s lost, we need to minimize that and we need to try and collect it, [and] various countries have programs for that.”

Overall, Lansbergen said IFCA's core goal is to ... 

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