A lot of great progress is being made around improving sustainability in many of the major seafood sectors. For example, the work that ISSF is doing on tuna or the efforts of the NFI Crab Council on blue swimming crab sustainability. Currently, it’s estimated that 75% of the wild global whitefish supply is involved in some level with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), be it with certification or full assessment, or in a fishery improvement project (FIP). It makes sense that industry and NGOs’ sustainability initiatives first targeted seafood commodities with larger volumes and greater value/margins.
But what about some of the smaller seafood sectors or fisheries that are relatively new to the sustainability game, such as squid, octopus, or seabob? This is what some refer to as the “tail end”; those smaller-volume or margin fisheries that can round out a seafood company’s sources. Recently, industry and NGOs have become more engaged on sustainability efforts in these “tail end” fisheries and sectors.
Recent improvement efforts for Chinese squid are a good example of this. Currently, there are zero MSC-certified squid fisheries in the world, and very few squid fisheries involved in FIPs. This presents a significant challenge for squid suppliers and distributors who have customers with commitments to MSC and other elements of a sustainable seafood commitment. Out of concern for the limited amount of sustainable squid available on the global market, a number of North American and European squid importers and distributors have been working collaboratively to support sustainability improvements in the East Guangdong-Taiwan Bank squid fishery in China.
The effort began in 2012, when Beaver Street Fisheries partnered with SFP to launch a FIP on Chinese squid. An initial scoping and needs assessment identified potential sustainability concerns in the fishery, but given the challenges in the fishery and region, it became apparent that additional industry support would be needed to move the FIP forward. Around the same time, SFP was in contact with a number of other companies, including High Liner Foods, Slade Gorton, Stavis Seafoods, and Lyons Seafood, who expressed an interest in supporting Chinese squid improvements. This initial group of industry members evolved into what is now the Asia Pacific Squid Supply Chain Roundtable (SR), which is currently made up of 12 industry participants focused on supporting sustainability improvements in Asia Pacific region squid fisheries.
In 2015, 12 of this SR’s members and four Chinese squid exporters co-signed a letter to the Shantou Ocean and Fishery Bureau, requesting assistance in improving the sustainability of Chinese squid. The bureau responded positively to the letter, and agreed to participate in a multi-stakeholder roundtable meeting. The meeting drew 40 people from a wide range of organizations, including government officials, foreign squid buyers/importers, local processors, research institutes, and NGOs. The meeting educated government officials on the importance of squid fishery sustainability to the global supply chain, and also explained the complexity of local fishery governance and management to foreign buyers.
As a result of this collaborative effort, China Blue Sustainability Institute, a local, China-based NGO, has developed an expanded FIP workplan and budget, which it will implement and coordinate. The workplan has the support of Chinese researchers and industry, and includes the at-sea research and data collection needed to better manage the squid fishery. SFP is currently working with some Asia Pacific Squid SR members and other NGOs to recruit industry participants to the FIP, as well as raise funding for the FIP with a goal of having the project’s budget fully funded by mid-2016.
Squid improvement efforts are rapidly growing beyond the project in China. Many Asia Pacific Squid SR members have a vested interest in other squid fisheries in the region, and some SR members have begun working with Ocean Outcomes to initiate a FIP in the East China Sea and Yellow Sea offshore Japanese flying squid fishery. In addition, companies focused on sustainability issues in South American squid fisheries recently created a South American Squid SR, which held its first meeting during the Seafood Expo in Brussels this week.
All of these efforts demonstrate the importance of industry collaboration when addressing sustainability in the “tail end” of seafood sources.
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