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Editor's Note: A maturing relationship

Property of SeaFood Business magazine
By Fiona Robinson, Associate Publisher, Editor
November 01, 2009

Seafood is becoming more sustainable, according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium (MBA). This is the first good news I've heard since the depressing recession took hold last year. As this issue went to press, the aquarium released "State of Seafood: Turning the Tide," a report that discusses the progress made over the past several years in protecting ocean ecosystems, better managing fisheries and fish farms, and advancing the sustainable seafood movement.

"We know what we need to do," says Julie Packard, the aquarium's executive director, "and the key players are working more closely than ever to do what needs to be done."

This work is documented in this issue's Top Story, Peas in a pod. Associate Editor James Wright explores how the relationship between seafood buyers and non-governmental organizations has evolved as they've worked together to reach sustainable seafood purchases. It's amazing how a few years can change the discussions dramatically.

Those relationships have certainly fueled more industry travel: Right now there are more seafood sustainability conferences on the calendar than scientific conferences or trade shows. For example, at the same time the MBA announced its report, the Sustainable Seafood Multi-Stakeholder Summit was held in San Francisco. Then factor in that the Seafood Choices Alliance is gearing up for its Seafood Summit in Paris in January, and conferences regarding sustainability are being planned for the International Boston Seafood Show in March. Clearly a lot is happening on this front.

But there is still a lot left to do. One of the problems some buyers have with the MBA's Seafood Watch program is the broad brush strokes taken with regard to farmed salmon and imported shrimp. These are two of the most popular species consumed per-capita in the United States - species that the Seafood Watch program says to avoid. The aquarium is asking chefs and others to take part in a "Save Our Seafood" campaign that is akin to the "Give Swordfish a Break" effort of a decade ago. As part of this newest campaign, participants are asked to not sell farmed salmon, Asian farmed tilapia, imported shrimp and a host of other species that are on the Seafood Watch avoid list. While this may be easy for upscale chefs to hitch their wagon to, it's not so clear cut for the buyers at Darden, Long John Silver's and other big companies. If all the farmed salmon purchasers switched to Arctic char as a replacement, what would happen to the farming of that species? Farmed species typically ramp up production to meet demand. Taking two steps forward is better than not starting down the path at all, but buyers clearly have a whole other aspect to their job ensuring the sustainability of their purchases.

The aquarium will update its report biennially, and I know many folks, myself included, will be eager to see if progress can be maintained.



Congratulations to Mark Sussman at Best Food Stuff in Norwood, Mass., the winner of the 2009 SeaFood Business Processor Survey Sweepstakes (the results of the survey were in the October issue)! Sussman was awarded a $100 American Express gift card. Thank you to all who participated in the survey.




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