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Networking: Dawn Martin

President, SeaWeb, Silver Spring, Md.

by James Wright
October 01, 2012

The Seafood Summit, which recently took place in Hong Kong, the conference’s first time in Asia, has become the premiere gathering for the seafood industry and the environmental community. It’s come a long way since the 2002 inaugural event in Washington, D.C., when representatives from only about 20 NGOs were there. Now hundreds of key industry leaders proudly attend, a true testament to how far the relationship between the two sectors has come. 

Dawn Martin, president of event organizer SeaWeb, is also proud of that progress and the role the Summit has played. Martin has been dedicated to the oceans since her law school professor, Bob Sulnick, and actor and environmental activist Ted Danson approached her to assist with the American Oceans Campaign (now Oceana). Having previously worked on international human rights and humanitarian law, Martin is not one to shy away from a challenge. 

When did you first fall in love with the oceans?  

When I was 10 or 11, walking down the boardwalk in Venice Beach with my grandmother. She lived on the coast, and everyone thought she was a hippie because she wore sun hats and took vitamins. She loved the fresh air, being outside, the calmness and the spiritual aspects of the ocean.  

I didn’t really think about it as a career choice until I was in Washington doing international human rights work and humanitarian law. I learned that of all the conservation funding and resources that were spent on the environment, only one half of 1 percent was spent on the oceans. Juxtapose that against the fact that three-quarters of our planet [is ocean], and we have a major challenge here. With all of the information I learned on the scientific side as well, that sort of flipped me over to say, “This is the ultimate human rights issue.” 

Have you noticed a more conciliatory and collaborative atmosphere at the Summit?  

That’s our ultimate goal. I remember in Jacksonville [in 2007], I was on the elevator with Kim Gorton of Slade Gorton & Co., and what she said to me was, “Wow, this is such a great meeting because all these other CEOs are here and we don’t get together much.” This is a great forum for people who do care about sustainability and the future of their business model to come together and talk.

Is there a moment from a previous Summit that stands out to you?  

It was in Seattle [in 2006], when Walmart and [World Wildlife Fund] decided to host a press conference at the Summit on Walmart’s commitments to sustainability. It was the first year that we were allowing media on the record, and people were using it as a place to make positive announcements about change, and the industry wanted to get that credit for stepping out and doing this. For me it was a tipping point. We were not just forcing people in a room and making them talk nice to each other. There are partnerships that have suddenly been enabled and they’re fruitful and they’re making commitments on the record.  

Why must the Summit be held in various places around the world? 

It needs to be in different places in order to really engage the local community where we are. We only have the resources to do this right now on an annual basis and we realize that there are a lot of people working in the trenches on this issue who can’t afford to fly and travel all around the world and that if we held it only in North America or Europe or Asia we would be limiting ourselves and not enabling ourselves to learn from the great work that’s being done in different parts of the world.

Click on the animated cover below to read the full digital issue.  

 October 2012 - SeaFood Business       

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