Sustainability at a Snail's Pace


James Wright, Senior Editor

Published on
January 29, 2008

The 2008 Seafood Summit, which wraps up today in Barcelona, Spain, is like an annual performance review of global sustainability progress. Organized since 2002 by the Seafood Choices Alliance in Silver Spring, Md., the event has successfully assembled dissenting voices to discuss the future of seafood. And while there remains no shortage of criticism about fisheries and aquaculture from environmental organizations - several of which made their presence felt this week - the seafood industry can take a measure of pride in how far it's come, however slowly, to reaching some momentous goals.

That's largely because galvanizing the fragmented global seafood industry to abide by a single directive - even one as praiseworthy as sustainability - was a daunting task when the movement first took hold about a decade ago. While there remains a long way to go, the growth of the Seafood Summit is evidence that the industry recognizes that its future depends on responsible practices in the present day. Facing criticism from environmental groups is part of due diligence.

On Monday, Greenpeace released a report titled, "Challenging the Aquaculture Industry on Sustainability," which is particularly critical of pollution at Canadian salmon farms and human rights abuses in Southeast Asia's burgeoning aquaculture industry. Greenpeace has its agenda, but a growing dependence on forage fisheries to feed finfish species like salmon, as the report details, is indeed a matter that calls for a workable solution.

Fishery managers have plenty to wrestle with, too, including supply-chain traceability and lessening pressure on lucrative species. World Wildlife Fund, which has had its share of hits (Aquaculture Dialogues) and misses (Stinky Fish) when it comes to keeping the seafood industry in check, reminded this year's summit attendees about the bleakness of the world's bluefin tuna stocks and urged retailers to boycott the sought-after species.

"The seafood industry is waking up to its responsibilities, recognizing that there is not an endless supply of fish like bluefin tuna," said Dr. Sergi Tudela, head of fisheries at WWF Mediterranean, in a press release earlier this week.

The Seafood Summit's greatest potential lies in turning constructive criticism into solutions that benefit both industry and the environment. This year's review is done, and while the overall grade remains incomplete, the participants deserve an "A" for effort.

Thank you,
James Wright
Assistant Editor
SeaFood Business

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