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Networking: Paul Holthus

Executive director, World Ocean Council,
By James Wright
February 01, 2010

QUOTE:  There is an opportunity for leadership from seafood, fisheries and aquaculture to engage with their peers from other sectors.


Sustainable seafood is impossible without sustainable oceans, says Paul Holthus, executive director of the World Ocean Council (WOC), a unique alliance of industries that seeks to steward a responsible, global ocean-business community. The WOC's first Sustainable Ocean Summit, which will be held from June 15 to 17 in Belfast, Ireland, will examine a wide range of issues, from climate change and sustainable seafood to impacts of sonic activity and ship strikes on marine life. Holthus has been involved in coastal and marine-resource sustainable development and conservation work in more than 30 countries across four continents.


JW: How can fish stocks benefit from more-responsible ocean industries other than fishing?

PH: There can be no sustainable seafood without sustainable seas. Healthy fisheries require a healthy ocean ecosystem, and not just a sustainable level of fishing effort. Fish stocks and fisheries can only benefit from a situation in which other ocean industries better tackle their marine-environmental impacts, collaborate with the seafood industry to more efficiently address shared challenges and coordinate on efforts to improve ocean science.


Why are ocean industry leadership and collaboration on sustainability so vital?

The ocean is an interconnected, global system, and all users need to be a part of 
addressing marine-ecosystem health. Responsible ocean industries have the most to gain by developing solutions to sustainability challenges - and the most to lose by not doing so. If the ocean-business community continues to be perceived only as the cause of marine environmental problems and doesn't lead the way with solutions, companies will find it much harder to obtain the "social license" needed to access ocean space and resources, and the terms of access will be determined by other stakeholders.


What are the challenges for the seafood industry to collaborate with other ocean industries?

The seafood, fisheries and aquaculture industries don't interact much with other ocean sectors and tend to see the others primarily as a cause of problems affecting their viability. So there's not a lot of understanding of each group's issues, and perhaps a lack of trust, as well as the lack of a structure and process to bring people from different sectors together.


How can ocean industries engage on common issues?

An important start is to understand that there are common issues within the very diverse ocean-business community and that there are business benefits to collaboration; for example, there are economies of scale and savings to be had in developing solutions to shared problems. The World Ocean Council is creating the platform and forum for companies to work together on issues such as marine spatial planning, marine invasive species, marine debris and [fishing in] the Arctic. There is an opportunity for leadership from seafood, fisheries and aquaculture to engage with their peers from other sectors.


Are you optimistic about a future with healthy oceans?

As we gather momentum and members, we are coming into contact with more and more marine professionals in leading companies, big and small, who are committed, innovative and determined to reduce the impact and increase the performance of their companies. When we get these people from different sectors together, the dynamics are incredible - and it is hard not to be optimistic that, working together, these individuals and companies will shape a sustainable future for the oceans.



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