« October 2013 Table of Contents
Networking: Ed Rhodes
Executive director, National Fisheries Institute Crab Council, McLean, Va.
By James Wright
October 01, 2013
Few can claim to be in a business for 50 years, whatever business that may be. Ed Rhodes can, however (and then some). Recently named the first-ever executive director of the National Fisheries Institute Crab Council, Rhodes is beginning yet another leg of a long and fruitful pursuit of his passion — the oceans — that began when he was just 14 years old. At that tender age he walked into a marine biology lab in his hometown of Milford, Conn., to ask about oysters, clams and starfish and was greeted by Victor Loosanoff, who just happened to be widely considered
the father of modern shellfish aquaculture. The “huge Russian man,” who hired Rhodes two years later to work in his lab, would ask him every day, “What breakthroughs have you had today?” He quickly learned if he ever had two in a day, he’d save one to please his mentor the next day.
“I grew up with aquaculture, basically,” says Rhodes, 70, who currently splits time between Baltimore and Cudjoe Key, Fla. After working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for 15 years, he turned his attention to commercial fish farming, growing shrimp and pompano in Florida and also oysters on Long Island, N.Y. He later founded one of the largest bay scallop cultivation ventures ever, Cultivos Marinos Internationales in northern Chile, which was acquired by Camanchaca. After recently completing six years of service with Phillips Foods of Baltimore as VP of sustainability and aquaculture development (he also served as the Crab Council’s chairman), Rhodes sees his new gig as a way of “giving back” to the industry he’s enjoyed working in for so long. The council is funding improvement projects in the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
Why is this opportunity so attractive?
I can help to create sustainable fisheries in the developing world. It really means job support, if fisheries and communities are sustainable. That’s important. The position is not full-time yet, but we needed more than a volunteer.
What are the differences between chairman and executive director?
A higher level of responsibility and the ability to spend the time required to get the job done. At Phillips, the work there was my chief responsibility and it was only by the graces of Steve Phillips that I got to spend as much time on the council as I did.
Is Steve Phillips a fishery improvement project (FIP) pioneer?
Absolutely. It was such a pleasure working with Steve because of the support he gave to the sustainability side of things. As the largest U.S. crab-importing company, that penny-and-a-half-a-pound of crabmeat exported (the required fee for council membership, which is currently 16 companies), Phillips is paying more than anybody. And he’s the one saying it ought to be 3 cents.
Can FIPs stand in for sustainability certification?
I see what you’re saying, but I wouldn’t say “stand in” for. The goal of an FIP, though, is to improve a fishery to where it would meet the standards for certification. Whether you go for it, which can be expensive, is a business decision. More foodservice buyers and retailers are going to demand certification because it makes it easier for them. Otherwise they’re left with the burden of determining whether [a fishery is] really there or not. At Phillips, we told customers that their policies should be “yes” to certified fisheries, but also “yes” to fisheries that have a credible, viable FIP in place. And time-bound; it really needs a timeline or a deadline. Fishery improvement never really ends, and it shouldn’t end with certification. It’s a continuous process. Certification is a stamp at one point in that process.
What is the status of the blue-swimming crab resource throughout Southeast Asia?
We’re seeing some improvement in some areas. We’ve prevented any further decline. Landings data are pretty erratic. For a species like crab, you have mature animals in just 12 months, so there’s a lot of annual fluctuation. We’ve stemmed the decline and look forward to improvements as we move.