Photo credit: Seathos.org
FishWisers have been tuning into Shark Week every night with the rest of the country. Discovery Channel’s annual program has highlighted the good, the bad, and the downright ugly when it comes to the ocean’s most feared predators. But sharks are far more threatened by humans than we are by sharks.
Every year, between 63 and 273 million sharks are killed in commercial fisheries, representing 6.4% and 7.9% of all the sharks in the ocean. That’s up to more than 500 sharks per minute! There is increasing global demand for shark fins, endangering vulnerable species like scalloped hammerheads and oceanic white tips. That’s why none of our nationwide retailer partners source shark fins or shark fin soup, and shark meat comes only from Seafood Watch Yellow-rated fisheries in the US, indicating they are a Good Alternative for responsibly sourced seafood.
Even when we as consumers make the choice not to eat shark, it’s important to eat only responsibly caught seafood. More than half of the sharks caught each year are caught as bycatch in commercial fisheries, meaning they were not the target species. By purchasing from only sustainable sources, we can ensure these charismatic creatures will continue to inspire fear and admiration in future generations.
The Discovery Channel’s annual “Shark Week” ends tonight July 10! For more information, including ways in which you can help save sharks, visit http://www.discovery.com/tv-shows/shark-week.
Each year, over 4 million metric tonnes of tuna are caught worldwide, with estimated market values over $7 billion in the central and western Pacific alone. Tuna is one of the most commercially valuable species and can be a target for Illegal, Unreported, & Unregulated (IUU) activities, risking overfishing of these stocks.
In effort to combat IUU fishing, the five tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) have created a harmonized database of authorized fishing vessels operating in their jurisdictions. The Consolidated List of Authorized Vessels (CLAV) is updated daily, taking vessel data from all 5 RFMOs, compiling the information, and identifying discrepancies. The tool is a great step forward in combatting IUU fishing as it provides fisheries managers and industry better information and reduces uncertainty in knowing which vessels have the right to fish in which areas. These 5 RFMOs cover around 91% of the entire ocean surface, increasing accountability for tuna fishers on a large scale (Pew Charitable Trusts).
The CLAV is built to reduce human burden and provide real-time information to fisheries managers. Information in the CLAV includes vessel history, physical descriptions, and a unique identification number dubbed the Tuna Unique Vessel Identifier (TUVI). While the CLAV is still a work in progress, the data could be used to feed into a Global Record of Fishing Vessels in the future.
The 5 RFMOs that contribute to the CLAV:
Source: Pew Charitable Trusts
My name is Caroline Ferguson, and I’m joining the FishWise team as a Project Manager for our Safeway partnership. I work with suppliers, distributors, and producers to deliver sustainable seafood products to consumers. I also help identify organizations making positive change in the seafood industry for the Sea Pact and RSVP (Responsible Sourcing Vendor Partner Program) grantmaking processes.
My passion for marine conservation developed at an early age, when my parents let me watch too much Shark Week. I learned about shark finning and other challenges facing marine organisms, and in the second grade I organized my first petition for the ocean (not that anyone in my classroom in Arkansas was eating shark fin soup). When I moved to California for high school, I quickly became involved in organizing beach clean-ups and campaigning to ban the plastic bag. I volunteered at the local aquarium, where I had the opportunity to engage with families from across the country about marine conservation and sustainable lifestyles.
At Stanford, I earned a B.A. and an M.S. in Marine Conservation, and I became interested in solutions to overfishing and unsustainable aquaculture practices that would benefit both ocean ecosystems and fishing communities. A few folks from FishWise visited my classroom during my sophomore year, and I was inspired by the impact a small group could have on an international industry. I am thrilled to learn from this team of motivated, passionate, creative problem solvers.
Other interesting facts about Caroline:
- When I was 15, I was in a girl band.
- I have visited all seven continents.
- My favorite animal is the great white shark, and one of the best days of my life was getting to see one at the Monterey Bay Aquarium!
FishWise retail partner Target has released its 2014 Corporate Social Responsibility Report, outlining progress in seafood sustainability, among other achievements. The report details how, in partnership with FishWise, Target is on track to meet its goal to ensure that their fresh and frozen seafood selection is 100 percent sustainable and traceable, or in a credible, time-bound improvement process, by the end of 2015. See the graphic below for Target's recent progress. In addition the report stated:
"Not only are we on track to meet this overall goal, but all of the seafood in our owned-brand product assortment is expected to meet it even sooner, by late summer of 2015. We realize our work doesn’t end when this goal is met—and we understand that the best solutions will come from working closely with others in the industry."
You can download the full report here (PDF).
Traceability systems are becoming increasingly comprehensive within the seafood industry, causing many firms to wonder how traceability improvements might affect the performance of their businesses. The Global Food Traceability Center (GFTC) sought to answer these questions and conducted a year-long survey to evaluate business performance related to traceability systems along the entire seafood supply chain.
The project had two main components. First, the team conducted interviews with individuals working in 48 different businesses within nine global supply chains. Second, the team evaluated whether traceability played a role in consumer perceptions and purchasing habits by looking at seafood purchasing trends in markets across Canada, China, Germany, The Netherlands, and the United States.
To assist businesses in identifying the potential benefits of their traceability system, the team developed an online software tool that calculates the return on investment of the platform. The tool allowed the firms surveyed to evaluate various attributes of their traceability systems and is currently available to the public.
- Traceability systems that have been used to monitor operations on a larger scale, such as identifying inefficient practices, have been positive for business performance and competitiveness.
- Companies that collaborate with suppliers and consumers tend to value traceability much more than firms with less cooperative cultures.
- Among firms that initially approached traceability with hesitancy, 75% changed their opinion from a negative to positive view after system implementation.
- Smaller businesses tend to see the benefits of traceability systems faster than larger firms.
Though traditional benefits of traceability were limited to food safety procedures, modern traceability systems can be used to take firms beyond regulation compliance and improve production, inventory, marketing, procurement, and public relations. Other benefits of incorporating a strategic perspective of traceability systems include:
- Greater confidence in decision-making
- Decreasing waste
- Reducing working capital by managing inventory more efficiently
- Authenticating sustainability and source claims
- Increased competitive advantage by identifying and accessing new markets
- Improved demonstration of accountability for high quality seafood
While overall the study highlighted the benefits of traceability systems, it also revealed some common challenges, such as cost, the lack of harmonized standards, and difficulty implementing interoperability between systems.
The study of consumer perceptions found that customers were primarily concerned with freshness of seafood products but they did also value the verification of seafood sustainability. While transparency remains an important factor for consumers, using traceability to verify sustainable seafood is a market opportunity for retailers.