Seafood Sustainability Beyond the NGO s. John Sackton Publisher SeafoodNews.com Vigo, Oct 3, 2016

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1 Seafood Sustainability Beyond the NGO s John Sackton Publisher SeafoodNews.com Vigo, Oct 3,

2 NGO Campaigns Have Never Been Only About Sustainability Four Campaigns Based on False Premises: Give Swordfish a Break Fish Fight: The last Cod in the North Sea Bering Sea Pollock Fishmeal and Thai Shrimp They have boosted the power of the organization leading the campaign and have raised money They have not created solutions to problems 2

3 NGO Story of North Atlantic Swordfish April 1998: Royal Caribbean Cruises stops serving swordfish Bon Apetit magazine stops publishing swordfish recipes. 100 s of chefs around the country sign on to campaign June-Dec 1998: President Clinton calls for a ban on import of north Atlantic swordfish of less than 33 lbs ABC News calls swordfish "a symbol for the crisis of the oceans. Time magazine says Give Swordfish a Break campaign one of the top 10 environmental stories of the year. April-Nov 1999 NMFS Finalizes Recovery Plan ICCAT sets 3 year Quotas August 2000: NMFS closes Nursery Areas to longlining 2002: ICCAT says Swordfish 94% Rebuilt; NGO s Declare Victory 3

4 What Really Happened Fishing Pressure Swordfish biomass NMFS Data Biomass recovery began in 1997 with Reduction in Fishing Pressure But NGOs got huge surge in reputation, contributions by claiming credit 4

5 Fish Fight Cod especially is under threat. In recent years stocks have massively decreased due to overfishing. It was placed on the endangered species list by the WWF with warnings that if overfishing continued, the world s cod could eventually disappear 5

6 HUGH FEARNLEY-WHITTINGSTALL Massive publicity Generated huge number of followers Helped Pressure EU to Ban Discards The reality on cod: Abundance rising Recovery began North Sea Cod now fully recovered Graph courtesy of Ray Hilborn 6

7 Swordfish and Cod: Government and Industry actions sparked recovery Swordfish US and ICCAT pressure to reduce Harvest and Fishing effort Agreement on quota reductions Protection of Nursery areas Development of better hooks and bycatch reduction These were all official actions - Not NGO actions Cod Water temperature improved Major gov t, industry and NGO (Greenpeace) effort to halt IUU fishing Effective Harvest Controls put in place 7

8 NGO s gained followers, political power and money with these campaigns But this model is no longer working NGOs can no longer campaign on dramatic declines in fisheries and lack of government action. Their working model: Identify fisheries problem unaddressed by industry and/or government Enlist public support to correct it through a campaign targeting users including retail, foodservice Build membership, funding, and partnerships Claim Credit as problem recedes 8

9 Ray Hilborn and Colleagues Have Documented the Improved Status of Global Fisheries US Fisheries 9

10 Model for Sustainability is Well European Fisheries Known 10

11 Some Problem Areas Remain West Africa But NGO s cannot build successful money raising campaigns on West African or inshore Asian fisheries. 11

12 Today s Landscape Many of the major large scale Western fisheries are certified. A larger number are being managed correctly, and can be called sustainable. In this environment, Campaigns claiming fisheries are failing do not have the same reputational and funding value for NGOs. 12

13 MSC Revenue Expected to Reach Record in totals estimated Number of SKU s with MSC Logo has risen from 17,200 to 22,000 which will likely mean a big bump in revenue this Year Vast majority of MSC revenue comes from 3 countries: UK, Germany and Belgium 13

14 NGOs adopt a new model: the selling of protection against risk Key Strategic requirements: Able to Generate Significant Income Able to build reputation of individual NGOs, who are extremely competitive with each other. Must focus supporters on specific issues pitched as the barrier to sustainability such as gear types and marine protected areas None of these issues influence if a fishery is in the right quadrant of the chart, ie. they are no longer about sustainability 14

15 MSC and WWF Agree WWF MSC 15

16 Risk can be monetized by NGOs Every Retailer and Foodservice operator, plus sellers of branded products, say their reputation ties them to their customers. Mitigating risks to their reputation is a key business task Food safety Government regulation industry associations Legal compliance Quality and Traceability Ranking systems allow NGOs to monetize risk by selling insurance They encourage companies to pay to ensure their seafood purchasing reputation against attack.. The value to the NGOs is directly proportional to how successful their past campaigns have been 16

17 Scoring or Ranking a Key Part of the Model MSC is based on a numerical scoring system Proprietary Easy to Distinguish from other NGOs Allows for continuous pressure to raise score 17

18 Rank and Spank (Greenpeace) Create proprietary ranking system Publish lists of Best and Worst Companies Threaten disruption for worst companies Build membership and funding by attacking specific companies Buy/Avoid (Monterey Bay and Others) Green list builds a brand Easy to make judgements without scientific review As science got better, list became less black and white 18

19 By 2016, Landscape has changed Governments and Fishery Managers have proven tools to protect fish stocks; harvest control rules increasingly implemented Major Retailers and Foodservice Buyers in North America and Europe Have Committed to using certified seafood items. With certification embedded in the supply chain, Buyers need a technical benchmark that defines it. This is similar to other standards, such as food safety, legal compliance, and purchasing specs: all meet the standard, or are not acceptable. There is no grading. GSSI Global Seafood Sustainability Initiative has built a benchmarking tool for certifications based on FAO requirements As retailers adopt the benchmark, it is harder for NGOs to differentiate themselves with their own approach to seafood sustainability, and less attractive for membership, media attention, and funding. 19

20 NGO model not working well with Tuna, Cephalopods NGO Certification worked for whitefish salmon shrimp 45.9% of global whitefish certified 50.3% of salmon certified 70% + (estimate) of US retail shrimp certified NGO Model Not Working Well with Tuna, Cephalopods Tuna: Many organizations involved in improving management practices and controlling capacity; not just certifiers Campaign against FADs ignores progress on by-catch issues Result: tuna campaigns for FAD- Free Tuna or Pole and Line Caught Tuna are not based on science; and don t focus on sustainability 20

21 Cephalopods With nearly 5 million tons of global cephalopod landings, only 34 tons certified by MSC (0.0007%) Small Galician Western Asturias inshore octopus fishery Why have cephalopods not been focus of NGO certification demands Consumers are mostly in countries where NGO organizations are weaker (China, Japan, Southern Europe) Squid populations are short lived and hard to measure Squid populations have largely been increasing, not decreasing, so fishing pressure is not as big a target. 21

22 Squid Populations and Harvest at High Levels FAO Data Zo A. Doubleday; Global proliferation of cephalopods in Current Biology Global Squid Management is not in Crisis; Recent fishery failures not evidence of long term decline 22

23 NGOs Turn to Different Issues Focus on marine issues not related to sustainability; i.e. protecting marine corals, creating Marine Protected Areas Greenpeace: Failed Bering Sea Canyon campaign MPA s: No Take MPAs strongly pushed in US, Australia, New Zealand and Internationally; but without scientific basis 23

24 Bering sea canyons Claimed Huge Coral Reserves in Bering Sea Canyons NOAA spent $.5 million on most extensive camera survey ever in Bering Sea Results showed no fishing impacts nor significant presence of coral in Bering Sea Canyons Council Recommended no Action Retailers who believed Greenpeace s claims were embarrassed Campaign has Ended 24

25 WWF Claims vs. Fact Claim 24% global shrimp produced with slavery is demonstrably false. Compares with claim world s cod could eventually disappear MSC moving to add a social dimension to its standards by 2020 Thai labor abuse exists on illegal fishing vessels and in peeling sheds Shrimp industry stopped using peeling sheds Thai Gov t enacted labor reforms Most fishmeal in Thailand is produced from processing byproducts. Less than 10% used in shrimp feed comes from wild fisheries., and companies are eliminating it Thai gov t instituted vessel crackdown US took Thailand off Trafficking watch list 25

26 Why are Seafood NGOs increasingly turning to social issues Consumers have been convinced that eating seafood is ethical and environmentally sound. When labor abuses are reported in the seafood supply chain, it undermines the message of eating responsibly. NGO s are reacting to widespread buyer and consumer pressure. When your tool is a hammer, every problem is a nail NGO Model: Discredit Companies Here Praise Companies Here 26

27 UK Companies Crafting their Own Sourcing Policies UK Industry Consortium adopts voluntary standards 27

28 Seafood NGOs not equipped to certify labor standards Yet NGOs are being pressured to include social considerations in order to try and stay relevent with their consumers and buyers. With sustainability, NGOs pressured large buyers, who generally were not aware of the problem. Sourcing with ethical labor standards has been an issue across many industries for many years. Company policies on labor and social issues are not decided at the level of the seafood buyer 28

29 Future of Seafood Sustainability 3 rd party certification here to stay Use of Pass / Fail benchmarks to replace scoring systems cost effective and simple. Use of a common benchmark like GSSI will spread because companies need simple sustainability systems. Better technical standards will be developed for fisheries that don t fit existing certification models, like cephalopods. Costs of certifications and re-certifications will go down due to more competition. 29

30 Seafood specific NGOs likely to lose supply chain influence over time For all the above reasons, seafood specific NGOs are likely to become less important in the supply chain Tools like the GSSI benchmark will level the playing field among seafood certifications and make it harder for NGO s to differentiate based on their proprietary scheme More NGOs will differentiate on specific single issues, or turn to non-scientific emotional campaigns around single issues These are not issues where NGOs can effectively pressure retailers to pay to protect their reputations. Funding partnerships and logo fee income will be reduced 30

31 Thank you John Sackton Publisher SeafoodNews.com Lexington, Massachusetts USA 31

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