There is nothing quite like the excitement of the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games. Every four years, we join in a global celebration and get swept up in the joy of human excellence and the spirit of peace and hope that led Baron Pierre de Coubertin to establish the modern Olympics in Athens, Greece in 1896.
Hope is the essence of the Olympics. The modern Games were, in part, founded in the hope that peaceful athletic competition would bring the nations together in ways that would foster connection and understanding, lessening the chances for armed conflict; and the hope that through sports, different creeds, races and religions could find common ground. As the needs of our world have changed the mission of the Games have expanded, challenging all of us to make our world a better place, in new and important ways.
One of the many ways the Olympics hopes to change our world for the better is through their commitment to conservation. In 2013, the Rio 2016 Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games announced a comprehensive agreement to promote ASC and MSC certified seafood at the 2016 Games. The decision to serve responsibly sourced fish during the summer Games has the potential to change the way the world thinks about seafood.
As we’ve discussed on this very blog in the past, aquaculture is critical to the future of food. More than 50 percent of the world’s consumable fish is now produced on a farm. Currently, aquaculture is the world’s fastest growing animal food producing sector, and thank goodness it is. Because according to the United Nation Food and Agriculture Organization, unless production in the sector doubles over the next few decades, it will be extremely difficult to feed the growing number of people on our planet by 2050.
The demand is driven by more than just basic demographics. In the west, more people are reducing their consumption of red meat for health and ethical reasons. In developing nations, fish and seafood produced through aquaculture serve as the main source of economical protein to combat malnutrition and to supplement otherwise protein deficient diets. These are just a few of the many reasons why aquaculture is important.
The landmark pledge by the Games, the biggest commitment to responsible seafood by the Olympics or any major sporting event to date, will allow local suppliers and caterers to provide delicious meals featuring certified seafood to top athletes and spectators in Rio. For many of those present it will be the first time they’ll enjoy Brazilian cuisine made with seafood produced in a way that ensures the availability of fish for generations to come. That experience will be a great example to those present, and those watching around the world, of how easy it is to make the responsible choice.
The Olympic commitment to promote certified seafood will have a lasting legacy in South America and across the world. In the years leading up to the Games important changes have taken place, and numerous farms and fisheries across the region have already taken steps to become certified — thereby improving their environmental performance according to industry leading standards. Among the first to make those key changes in Bazil was Netuno Internacional. In May, Netuno became the first Brazilian farm to gain ASC certification and the farm is now supplying tilapia to the Games.
ASC certified salmon from the Chilean producer Los Fiordos is also being served at the Rio 2016 Games. Los Fiordos joined the ASC programme in late 2014 and are among the true environmental pioneers in South America. Together, these two aquaculture producers have set a clear example of the importance of certification for good operations, worker and community relations and business opportunities
Furthermore, due to the high-profile commitment to an overarching conservation agenda by the Games, consumer knowledge about the social, environmental and operational benefits associated with certified responsible seafood will grow. Put simply, Rio 2016 is an invaluable showcase for the importance of choosing certified seafood wherever possible while dining out or choosing fish to be served at home.
The Olympics are unique in their ability to captivate the world. In years past we’ve watched for the pageantry, and the joy and exhilaration of seeing the best athletes in the world compete in beautiful locations. This year, those of us at ASC have another reason to watch — to support our partners as we work together to raise awareness about the need for responsibly produced, certified seafood that is good for the people and the planet.