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Networking: Brad Warren
Director, Productive Oceans Partnership, Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, Seattle
By James Wright
March 01, 2010
"But every fish we catch is caught burning diesel. A solution to this has to be one that people can live with."
Brad Warren's got work to do. The former editor of Pacific Fishing has been traveling to East Coast fishing communities over the past year to drum up industry support and scout out potential leadership for Sustainable Fisheries Partnership's ocean-acidification initiatives, known as the Producive Oceans Partnership. SFP is a Seattle non-governmental organization that provides strategic and technical guidance to seafood suppliers and producers.
Knowledge of ocean acidification (see Top Story - Ocean Acidification, Sept. 2009) is low. Addressing the changing chemistry of the world's oceans and determining what can be done about it have become Warren's mission, and he relishes the opportunity to alert and educate those who depend on the oceans for their livelihoods.
JW: How is ocean-acidification education progressing?
BW: At this point, in Alaska, ocean acidification is really well known in fishing communities. A Sea Grant survey a couple of years ago showed it was one of the three top issues that people in the industry identified as a major concern. The executive director of United Fishermen of Alaska [Mark Vinsel] has said that of the things fishermen are worried about, on a scale of one to 10, ocean acidification was a 20 or 30. So you have a very high level of awareness in Alaska, but I don't think awareness [on the East Coast] is as high.
What are your hopes for this initiative?
I'd like to see the industry, from top to bottom, take this issue on. In my view, it is an existential threat to the future of the seafood industry, and to the fishing industry, and equally to aquaculture, because it depends on feed supplies that also are largely wild fish.
Taking this on means really using the industry's political savvy. This is an industry that is sort of paradoxical. Most people I know - fishermen, processors, even lobbyists - have an "aw-shucks" view of themselves. It's kind of true [that fishermen underrate their clout] in some ways, but if you look at the track record of this industry's ability to get stuff done at the national-policy level, where it concerns them, they get stuff done. They got the capital construction fund; they got the Magnuson Act passed with regional representation by the industry in their own regulation. Not too many industries get that.
Is the seafood industry powerful enough to effect change?
Part of the reason they have power is the fact that they bring you your dinner. They have a drumbeat play. If they tell you something in the oceans is changing and affecting their ability to bring you dinner, you listen. The message gets heard - even by people who don't want to hear it. Federal policymakers take this industry seriously. There are many reasons to be circumspect and thoughtful about how this industry gets engaged.
But every fish we catch is caught by burning diesel. A solution to this has to be one that people can live with. There is currently no consensus on what the mechanisms should look like.
How challenging can political obstacles be?
It's not that the United States has no problems, but the most difficult issues in global fisheries are in countries like Russia, or in countries where the institutions of democratic governance are weak or nonexistent. They're in countries where the standard methods of reform and advocacy don't work. It requires a different source of leverage, and that ultimately comes from the producers. If the objective is to change the methods of production, the people who do the producing have to buy in.