As part of the North Atlantic Seafood Forum (NASF) that took place last month, the ASC was proud to sponsor a seminar on sustainability alongside the MSC and GAA. With only a few months of experience in the sector, the forum provided a brilliant chance for a new joiner like me to hear about and better understand some of the key issues and opportunities for the industry.
By Genevra Morrison-Hutton, B2B Marketing Communications Manager
Unlike in previous years where the forum would meet in Bergen, Norway, due to the COVID-19 pandemic this year’s forum was entirely online– thanks to the hard work of the organisers. And in spite of the dramatic global overshadowing of the issue, climate change and its effects remain as pressing as ever for the seafood industry.
Chaired by Mike Mitchell of Fair Seas Limited, the sustainability seminar brought together speakers spanning politics, science and academia, fishing, manufacturing, food service, retail and the third-sector.
Key presentation highlights included Caroline Holme from GlobeScan speaking about the prominence of environmental concerns in the minds of consumers – most notably in Europe – and their belief that their purchasing decisions can make a difference. She also cited research showing that ‘sustainably sourced’ ranks fifth in purchasing motivators for European consumers, ahead of price. However, questions remain about the gap between consumers’ reported attitudes and their actual behaviours.
Peter Tyedmers from Dalhousie University, Canada, emphasised the rapid increase in food-related greenhouse gas emissions. He flagged that many major sources of seafood result in much lower emissions than those that arise from agricultural lifestock systems – and the scope for major improvement through protein switching. Nonetheless, he pointed to fuel use by fisheries and increasing emissions from capture fisheries as areas for particular attention and improvement.
Lesley Mitchell from Forum for the Future was also clear on the need for companies to embed sustainability throughout their business strategy with greater urgency and boldness of ambition. Her vision was for a total paradigm shift away from narratives about harm reduction to simply putting more back into the environment than is being taken out.
The panel discussion that followed was lively and engaging. Panellists discussed consumer motiviations and behaviours, and the impact of younger generations‘ views of seafood consumption. Annelie Selander Woolworth of Nomad spoke of needing to retain younger consumers whose main interaction with seafood was with frozen products. For Vincent Doumeizel from the United Nations Global Compact, to dispel criticisms there is also a need for better ‘story-telling’ in the industry around the opportunities to address global nutrition, and the role that could be played by seaweed in particular.
Among other topics, the panellists also covered the importance of harnessing the power of community and fostering co-operation as essential in keeping up with the demands of climate change. Avrim Lazar from GSI mentioned specifically that no one company can individually overcome these challenges and that instead a collaborative and innovative approach is needed, supported by the advantages of new technologies.
We are grateful to all of the speakers and panellists that took part, and also to Mike Mitchell for expertly guiding the presentations and discussion.