FishWise’s mission is to promote the health and recovery of ocean ecosystems by providing innovative market-based tools to the seafood industry, supporting sustainability through environmentally and socially responsible business practices.
FishWise was founded in 2002 to enable consumers and grocery retailers to support marine conservation through their seafood purchasing decisions. The organization’s co-founders, Teresa Ish and Shelly Benoit, identified a critical gap in which consumers did not have the information necessary to make informed choices and well-intentioned businesses did not have the tools and resources to accurately and credibly incorporate sustainability into their seafood cases. Through a collaboration with Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program and a pilot project with New Leaf Community Markets in Santa Cruz, California, FishWise was born. Results showed that customers shifted their purchasing to the more sustainable seafood options, with a clear increase in total sales.
Over the next couple of years, new tools such as an online training system for employees and point of sale materials were developed that improved customer service and loyalty, driving both conservation gains and the adoption of the program throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Based on that success, FishWise expanded in 2006 to Andronico’s and Nugget Markets, two of California’s leading independent retailers. At that same time, Tobias Aguirre was hired as the Executive Director, bringing a strong background in nonprofit management and business strategy and a commitment to developing business solutions to environmental problems. FishWise continued to add new partners to its retail program, and can now be found in stores throughout the United States.
In 2009, FishWise announced groundbreaking partnerships with Safeway and Lusamerica, one of its major distributors. By working closely with FishWise, and building on its existing program, Safeway is now regarded as one of North America’s leaders in seafood sustainability. Throughout its history, FishWise has advanced leadership in sustainable seafood with companies both big and small. As the sustainable seafood movement matures and companies operationalize their commitments to sustainable seafood, FishWise’s work has become more international, involving the most important seafood products from around the world.
FishWise believes that healthy ocean ecosystems and freshwater habitats are vital to maintain biological diversity and are the building blocks of a long term and sustainable seafood industry. By combining credible science and NGO expertise, the innovation of seafood businesses, and the power of informed consumers, FishWise believes that we can chart a new course for the seafood industry. Our belief is that everyone in the supply chain has an important role to play, from the coastal communities and companies that farm and catch fish, to the specialty retailers and distributors that differentiate themselves through sustainable business practices, to the largest companies that possess the leverage to drive innovation and conservation in their supply chains. All of us must work together to enact the change necessary to protect our ocean resources long into the future.