Welcome James Tsou-Wong!

Created on Friday, 16 September 2016


Hi FishWise readers! I’m James and I am happy to announce that I have recently joined the FishWise team as a Project Manager in the Traceability Division. My focus is working with our partners and conservation organizations to find innovative and cross-sectoral approaches to address human rights and labor issues in the seafood industry.

I grew up in Maryland and Beijing, China, and my love for the oceans first grew from both frequent trips to the Baltimore aquarium and my volunteer activities against the consumption of shark fin soup in China. My experience in China also gave me firsthand experience with a new and growing market for seafood and the opportunities and challenges it brings.

I earned my B.A. in general science where I specialized in ecology from Pennsylvania State University, and my M.A. from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in international environmental policy. I became involved in fisheries during college when I worked on wetlands in the Rift Valley region of Kenya and while earning my master’s degree where I guided discussions and research on marine protected areas at the Food and Aquaculture Organization of the United Nations ( Prior to joining the FishWise team I also led field research on Taiwanese and Chinese tuna longlining fleets and their activities in the Indian ocean. This research assisted coastal nations in Eastern Africa to formulate a policy regarding the fishing activities of China and Taiwan.

Working all over the world on marine issues demonstrated the many challenges and the people who rely on them face, and the many opportunities that exist to address those challenges. I am excited to join this team where I can bring my practical and theoretical experience in fisheries to help achieve FishWise’s mission supporting sustainability through environmentally and socially responsible business practices.

Myths of Modern Day Slavery in the Seafood Industry

Created on Thursday, 08 September 2016


Photo credit: Ethan Lucas

When it comes to human trafficking and modern day slavery, myths are unfortunately quite common. In addition to the predominance of these myths, it is challenging for experts to agree on the global scope of slavery. Estimates of the number of people subjected to human trafficking and forced labor range from 20 million (an estimate of the International Labour Organization (ILO) in 2012) to 46 million (an estimate of Walk Free Foundation (WFF) in 2016).

While it is difficult to definitively know how many people are subjected to modern day slavery, the practice has been documented by a variety of sources including peer reviewed articles, comprehensive reports, and news stories. In the past few years, journalists have detailed instances of slavery in seafood supply chains, from fishing vessels to processing facilities. Given FishWise’s focus on socially responsible business practices, this blog post will focus on debunking a few myths of slavery and human trafficking specific to seafood.

Myth #1 – Slavery is extinct
Although multiple organizations are dedicated to fighting human trafficking and unfair labor conditions, slavery is often perceived as a problem of the past. However, millions of people are enslaved globally. In the fishing industry, forced labor can include deceptive recruiting, excessive workdays, pay withholding, homicide, child labor, and other issues in all steps of supply chains. In two case studies focused on Thailand, researchers found approximately 20% of workers on fishing boats and 10% of workers in the processing industry worked in conditions indicative of forced or coerced labor. The industry is recognizing these challenges and working to meet them. Companies like Nestle are now setting expectations of their supply chains that include responsible sourcing goals.

Myth #2 – Trafficking always includes physical force or confinement
Migrant workers can fall victim to debt bondage, where a worker attempts to pay off a fee for the cost of working in a different country. Debt bondage has been documented in the Thai fishing industry with migrant workers from Cambodia, Myanmar, and Laos. However, change is on the water. To reduce worker vulnerability, Thai Union has announced that it will eliminate recruitment fees for its workers as one of its steps towards a more ethical migrant worker recruitment policy.

Myth #3 – Prosecution and fines aren’t necessary
Remediation and survivor services are very important, however it is also important to change the drivers of modern day slavery to ensure that human trafficking comes at a high cost. Currently, assuming a high 20% chance of being apprehended for illegal fishing, fishing fines would need to be increased twenty-fourfold for the cost to equal the benefits. Although not through the use of fines, U.S. legislation has evolved to prevent human trafficking in supply chains. In February 2016, Obama signed the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act which closed a consumptive demand loophole which had previously allowed products made with forced labor to enter into the U.S. market. Moving forward, efforts to prevent products associated with slavery from U.S. businesses’ supply chains will have more legislative teeth than before.

With human trafficking and modern day slavery occurring in the seafood industry, it’s important to understand how trafficking is perceived around the globe and what companies can do to prevent these unjust practices. To minimize the risk of these abuses occurring in its supply chains, businesses can start by establishing codes of conduct and communicating with its partners about expectations for its supply chains. While these are big issues to tackle, there are also many resources available.

For more information on human rights in the seafood industry, please see the FishWise human rights resources page.

FishWise Partner Tsar Nicoulai Sends Sustainable Caviar to Space!

Created on Friday, 26 August 2016

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Sustainable seafood has expanded its reach to outer space. On July 18, private space company SpaceX launched a rocket on a mission to resupply the International Space Station. Included amongst the cargo were six tins of caviar from Tsar Nicoulai Caviar, one of FishWise’s producer partners.

Tsar Nicoulai partnered with NASA to send the first US-produced fish eggs into orbit. The tins contained caviar from farm-raised American white sturgeon–a source rated Green “Best Choice” by Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program given the closed-tank production method used, which minimizes impacts compared to other aquaculture systems.

Since all 27 wild sturgeon species around the globe are depleted or critically endangered due to high demand for caviar and the sturgeon’s slow-growing nature, caviar from farm-raised sturgeon presents the best option for experiencing this culinary delicacy.

So how will the astronauts indulge? Previous experimentation suggests the best way to eat caviar in space is to squeeze it into the mouth from a bag, suck it through a straw, or wrap it in a tortilla.

That’s one small step for caviar, one giant leap for sustainability!

FAO State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture Report: 2016 Edition

Created on Wednesday, 24 August 2016

FAO Blog pic

Photo credit: Marine Photobank/Wahid Adnan

The global fisheries and aquaculture sector is an important source of employment, nutrition, and income, supporting the livelihoods of 12% of the world’s population. It is important to have an up-to-date, comprehensive, and accurate understanding of the state of our fisheries so that we can monitor and measure how changes in fisheries and aquaculture impacts both worldwide human and fish populations. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) releases a report every two years that does just that, aptly named The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture. Aiming to provide a reliable and informed analysis of inclusive fisheries and aquaculture data and related issues, this globally scoped report covers a variety of topics such as illegal fishing, invasive species, fishing fleet status, governance and policy, bycatch mitigation, and fisheries resilience. The 2016 edition uses the latest official statistics on fisheries and aquaculture to present a global analysis of trends in fish stocks, production, processing, utilization, trade, and consumption. Sections of this report are highlighted below.

Due to the dependence on fisheries by millions of people around the world, coupled with the increasing supply of farmed seafood, worldwide per capita fish supply has reached a record high in 2014. World aquaculture production now provides half of all fish for human consumption, and for the first time ever has surpassed the contribution of wild-caught fish. In light of this, open ocean, coastal, and even freshwater fisheries are emphasized as having a large potential to contribute significantly to food security and adequate nutrition for a global population expected to reach 9.7 billion people by 2050.

Despite increased production and, in places, stronger fisheries management, the state of the world’s marine fish stocks has not improved, although some areas have seen notable progress. The ten most productive species accounted for 27% of the world’s marine capture fisheries production in 2013; however most of those stocks are fully fished with no potential for increases in production. Compounding this problem is a global fleet of 4.6 million fishing vessels. Among the implementation shortfalls there has still been considerate positive developments in relation to the FAO Fisheries Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries – considered a benchmark policy for ocean governance. There has also been notable progress in monitoring the status of fish stocks, compilation of statistics on catch and fishing effort, and the application of the FAO Code’s ecosystem approach to fisheries and aquaculture.

Steps are also being taken to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and to control fishing capacity, including:

  1. A global application of the 2014 FAO Voluntary Guidelines on Flag State Performance, which serves as an important compliment to the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA). By improving the implementation of flag state responsibilities, ideally, illegal fishers will be deterred and denied access to states’ ports and markets;
  2. A new focus on implementing internationally agreed-upon International Plans Of Action for IUU fishing (IPOA-IUU); and
  3. A recognition of the need for market access and trade measures that would be beneficial to combat illegal fishing such as traceability, catch documentation, and ecolabeling schemes.

Similar to the work FishWise undertakes with its retail partnerships, the State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture report also highlighted the role that end-to-end traceability can play as an important tool to lend support to the sustainable and traceable seafood movement. Similarly, the report emphasizes global efforts to combat IUU fishing, which requires significant international coordination and cooperation. To aid support in the endeavor to build consensus and cooperation, FAO drafted guidelines in 2015 for catch documentation schemes based on these core principles:

  • Be in conformity with the provisions of relevant law
  • Not create unnecessary barriers to trade
  • Equivalence
  • Risk-based
  • Reliable
  • Simple, clear, and transparent
  • Electronic (if possible)


While these guidelines are voluntary, they provide states, intergovernmental organizations, and other stakeholders guidance for developing, implementing, reviewing, and harmonizing catch documentation schemes.

The FAO’s State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture report details important global efforts, challenges, and progress made in the world fisheries and aquaculture sector. This latest edition emphasizes that the state of the world’s fisheries, despite progress in particular areas, is not improving. On the contrary, there has been improvement in developing and now implementing a progressive legal framework to combat IUU fishing as well as a realization that end-to-end traceability can lend support to providing consumers with legal, traceable, and sustainable seafood. As FishWise continues to work with its partners and other NGOs to deliver credible, market-based solutions for sustainably and ethically sourced seafood, it is encouraging to know that our goals align with those of the FAO – an internationally recognized and respected organization.

Traceability At Your Fingertips

Created on Thursday, 18 August 2016

Traceability Toolkit blog_credit Matt Grove

Traceability is quickly gaining recognition in the seafood industry as an effective tool that can help illuminate opaque supply chains and verify sustainability and social responsibility claims. However, the traceability landscape is complex and constantly evolving, making it a difficult concept for many to fully grasp. Future of Fish recognized that industry-wide adoption of traceability best practices would be dependent on a shared understanding of the concept, and enlisted the help of FishWise, World Wildlife Fund, and the Global Food Traceability Center to create a Traceability 101 Toolkit – a one stop shop with helpful and simplified resources on all things seafood traceability. This toolkit will help empower environmental and social NGOS to effectively guide their industry partners towards the goal of robust, end-to-end supply chain traceability.

The resources in this toolkit were born out of responses from surveys and interviews with conservation organizations, who expressed the need for high-level traceability concepts clearly explained through multimedia platforms. The traceability tools currently available in this toolkit are:


NGOs can now use these tools to ensure that they all have the same understanding of end-to-end supply chain traceability, and educate their industry partners on steps to take towards implementing traceability best practices. FishWise Traceability Division Director Mariah Boyle explains that “this toolkit is a significant step towards greater alignment and understanding of seafood traceability. NGOs and companies with expertise on the topic can sharpen their traceability lexicon with the glossary and think about new traceability applications by viewing the slide deck. Those new to traceability can view quick PSAs as a 101 on the topic and a one-pager on the five core functions of traceability.

This toolkit is intended to evolve with the continually changing landscape of seafood traceability. It will serve as a dynamic platform that can continue to house new and improved tools to support greater understanding and more effective engagement in conversations about traceability and traceability technology in seafood supply chains.

If you’d like to learn more about seafood traceability, please visit our FishWise Traceability Resources page for additional information.


Sea Quest – MSC Certified Albacore from Fiji

Created on Friday, 05 August 2016

Sea Quest Fiji blog photo

In November and December of 2015, FishWise staff Mariah Boyle and Elsie Tanadjaja went on a trip to the South Pacific to learn more about tuna fisheries. Tuna is the third most consumed seafood in this country, with fresh and frozen offerings in steaks and sashimi along with the American staple of canned tuna. Tuna are impressive fish – they are large, migrate throughout the world’s oceans, and have specialized physiology to swim fast and regulate their body temperatures. On this trip, Mariah and Elsie visited several countries and many companies. One of these was Sea Quest, based in Fiji.

Established in 2006, Sea Quest is a 100% locally owned tuna longline fishing company based out of the port of Suva, Fiji. It has grown from its small beginnings of three fishing vessels to a current total of six licensed longliners harvesting fresh tuna to be exported to international markets. Employing around 150 staff including crew, engineers, and administrative staff, Sea Quest prides itself on training and providing employment to locals, particularly from rural areas.

Sea Quest, among many other companies in this area, fish using longlines – about 98% of what the company catches is marketable in terms of species and size. Sea Quest annually harvests approximately 1,000 tons of fish; about 500 of which is fresh and destined for buyers primarily in Japan and the United States, as well as growing markets in New Zealand, Australia, and the European Union. All of their harvest is within Fiji’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

In 2012, as one of four members of the Fiji Tuna Boat Owners Association (FTBOA), Sea Quest’s albacore tuna longline fishery was certified with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). Between 50 and 60% of the Fijian tuna harvest is made up of albacore and represents a large portion of the country’s tuna export earnings. This accreditation allowed Sea Quest to access markets previously off limits due to the assurance that albacore tuna fished within Fiji was harvested from a sustainable and certified source. Certification by an internationally recognized organization like the MSC is vital recognition for the efforts towards creating a more sustainable and efficiently managed fishery.

Sea Quest continually stresses the importance of not only sustainable fishing practices but traceability throughout the supply chain. Since June 2013, Sea Quest and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), through it’s Smart Fishing Initiative, have teamed up to implement a project to prove that use of satellite technology on fishing vessels can not only increase safety on those vessels but promote legal and transparent fishing practices. Sea Quest had installed six Automatic Identification System (AIS) transmitters on its tuna fishing vessels to demonstrate full transparency of the fleet’s fishing operations and has since been receiving positive feedback from its customers and boat captains.

Additionally, Fiji is a signatory country to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) regional fisheries management organization (RFMO) as well as a signatory to UNCLOS and all relevant conventions, aimed at using effective management for the long-term conservation and sustainable use of highly migratory species, such as tuna. Unfortunately, there have been recent concerns over the declining tuna stocks in the Pacific due to competition from foreign-flagged fishing vessels and overfishing of the stocks.

Fiji has taken some excellent strides to improve their offshore fishery management in recent years. Their monitoring and inspection of vessels returning to port has been improved, new fisheries regulations have been implemented, and managers are working collaboratively with fishers and fishing associations to address concerns.

There is still work to be done to manage tuna in a sustainable manner, globally. Efforts to improve traceability, vessel tracking, enforcement and set sustainable harvest limits will be vital to the long-term viability of these fish stocks. After our trip we’re in awe of these beautiful fish and look forward to working to ensure their sustainability is a priority.

FishWise Celebrates Target’s Achievements in Sustainable Seafood

Created on Sunday, 31 July 2016


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In 2011, FishWise partnered with Target to help the company develop a comprehensive program with the goal of having 100% of its fresh and frozen seafood products be responsibly sourced and traceable by year-end 2015 . Since then, Target has transitioned almost 60% of its fresh and frozen seafood to sustainable sources. As of January 2016, 97% of the fresh and frozen seafood sold in Target stores meets their commitment to responsible sourcing. Additionally, 100% of Target’s owned brand fresh and frozen seafood products are now from responsible sources.

The success of the partnership and program has established Target as an industry leader in the sustainable seafood movement. Target has maintained a top ten position in Greenpeace’s “Carting Away the Oceans” report, placing it in the top tier of U.S. supermarkets that are addressing the major social and environmental concerns associated with seafood.

One key factor in Target’s success is its willingness to extend its work beyond direct purchasing by engaging in collaborative discussions with seafood vendors to improve sourcing.

Together with FishWise, Target engaged with the Global Aquaculture Alliance to make improvements to its Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) certification for farm raised shrimp. Target also has supported fishery improvement projects by purchasing from progressive FIPs.

Going forward, Target is committed to working with its vendors to ensure its high standards for sustainable seafood continue to be met.


FishWise Updates Briefing on Human Trafficking and Abuse in Thailand’s Shrimp Supply Chains

Created on Wednesday, 27 July 2016


Over the past few years, criticisms have been directed at the Thai government for labor and human rights abuses occurring in the country. Evidence of human trafficking, forced labor, and human rights abuses were described by the media and NGO sources. In anticipation of the 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report, FishWise has updated its briefing document on the issue.

The briefing describes the primary human rights issues in Thai shrimp supply chains, the United States and European Union’s responses to this issue, a history of media attention paid to the issue, Thailand’s response, and actions from and recommendations for the seafood industry.

You can view the briefing document here.

Solander Pacific Ltd – MSC Certified Albacore from Fiji

Created on Monday, 11 July 2016


Bluefin tuna_Solander Pacific blog

In November and December of 2015, FishWise staff Mariah Boyle and Elsie Tanadjaja went on a trip to the South Pacific to learn more about tuna fisheries. Tuna is the third most consumed seafood in this country, with fresh and frozen offerings in steaks and sashimi along with the American staple of canned tuna. Tuna are impressive fish – they are large, migrate throughout the world’s oceans, and have specialized physiology to swim fast and regulate their body temperatures. On this trip, Mariah and Elsie visited several countries and many companies. One of these was Solander Pacific, based in Fiji.

Solander Pacific, a tuna longline fishing company based out of the Pacific island of Fiji, is one of the island’s oldest fishing companies. Founded in 1987, it prides itself with not only directly contributing tens of millions of Fijian dollars to the local economy, but also employing around 400 people with on-going training of skippers, crew, and engineers onboard a fleet of 13 vessels. Solander Pacific is an important part of the country’s domestic tuna industry, dubbed “Fiji’s $300 million industry.”

Solander Pacific’s New Zealand-based parent company, The Solander Group, engages in catching and freezing a variety of tuna species. Solander Pacific catches, freezes, and exports big-eye, yellowfin, and albacore tuna, and is one of the largest catchers and processors of albacore in the Pacific, producing around 2,000 tons each year.

High quality seafood products are ensured by Solander Pacific’s vessels due to short trips out to sea, tuna grading on site, careful packing, and temperature-controlled refrigerated saltwater systems for storage and shipment. Solander Pacific’s fishing vessels are company owned and operated out of the port of Suva and thus are subject to the rigorous fisheries research, management, and monitoring systems Fiji employs for its tuna fishing industry.

Fiji is a signatory country, among many other small island nations, to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) regional fisheries management organization (RFMO) which gives guidance on sustainability, ecologically important species, and catch reporting. A sizeable benefit to Solander Pacific’s adherence to all relevant management regimes and authorities was the ability for the Fiji Tuna Boat Owners Association (FTBOA), of which Solander Pacific is a member, to obtain Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification in 2012 for its albacore longline fishery. This certification helped the company gain access to markets, mainly those in Europe, that have a high demand for seafood sourced from certified fisheries.

Additionally, Fiji is a signatory to UNCLOS and all relevant UN conventions on the management of fish stocks in the South Pacific. But, there have been recent concerns over the declining stock status of Pacific tuna due to competition from foreign fishing vessels and overfishing of tuna stocks.

Fiji has taken some excellent strides to improve their offshore fishery management in recent years. Their monitoring and inspection of vessels returning to port has been improved, new fisheries regulations have been implemented, and managers are working collaboratively with fishers and fishing associations to address concerns.

There is still work to be done to globally manage tuna in a sustainable manner. Efforts to improve traceability, vessel tracking, enforcement, and set sustainable harvest limits will be vital to the long-term viability of these fish stocks. After this trip, we’re in awe of these beautiful fish and look forward to working to ensure their sustainability is a priority.


FishWise Provides Sustainable Seafood Education at Savvy Seafood Event

Created on Friday, 24 June 2016

                                                 Photo Credit: NOAA

FishWise recently had the good fortune of being invited to participate in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Centers Savvy Seafood event on June’s First Friday – a day each month where Santa Cruz businesses feature art and informational activities designed to engage the community. The aim of the event was for attendees to learn how to make smart seafood choices while celebrating the sustainable fisheries located in the Monterey Bay.

FishWise project managers Meg Songer, Traci Linder, Erin Taylor, and Rachael Confair enjoyed spending the beautiful evening fielding questions regarding sustainable seafood, helping children to create their own FishWise activity pages, and inviting attendees to play FishWise’s educationally-themed cornhole game. Ocean2Table, a local community supported fishery (CSF), supplied a very tasty and sustainable seafood spread that included sablefish cakes and California halibut lettuce wraps.

Opened in 2012, the Sanctuary Exploration Center in Santa Cruz highlights the spectacular Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The Center’s main goals include educating visitors about the sanctuary’s unique coastal and marine environment while fostering a personal connection with the sanctuary and encouraging marine stewardship. The event was a success with record First Friday attendance and a wonderful time was had by all. FishWise looks forward to any future collaborations with the Exploration Center.