Aug 17th, 2017

An Initiative for Resilient Oceans

By Dr. Darian McBain

Fish consumption around the world has risen significantly over the past few years. It is a rich source of easily digested and high-quality protein, providing essential nutrients and vitamins for billions of people.

According to a report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, global per capita fish consumption rose in 2016 to above 20 kilograms a year for the first time. And between 1992 and 2002, global consumption of seafood increased by 21 percent.

However, despite the increase in demand, levels of fish catches in the wild have remained stable since the mid-1990s – close to 90 million tons annually.

The challenge is clear: how can industry, governments, NGOs and other stakeholders come together to meet the protein needs of the global population in a way that it is sustainable and protects our oceans for future generations?

As the largest seafood producer in the world, Thai Union was honored to participate in an initiative started by the Stockholm Resilience Centre to understand how transnational corporations could influence transformative change in our oceans. The effort brought together scientists and the leaders of the largest seafood producers in the world to coproduce a global science-business initiative for ocean stewardship.

This meant that for the first time, links were created across continents between science and business, wild-capture fisheries and aquaculture. The effort laid the foundation for the creation of a new global coalition titled Seafood Business for Ocean Stewardship (SeaBOS), to help consolidate a connection across the seafood industry that can bring positive change through a science-based approach. It allows for scientists to offer their objective knowledge and understanding of risks, and for companies to build trust and engage to amplify new norms and standards of ocean stewardship.

In June, Thai Union and nine other companies signed a groundbreaking pledge as part of its membership to SeaBOS, committing to improve operations and to challenge the rest of the seafood industry to follow. We committed to ensuring safe and legal labor, and to actively improve existing regulations for fisheries and aquaculture management, among others.

The scientists from the Stockholm Resilience Centre recently published an analysis describing the process of identifying the key players in this initiative, of remaining actively engaged with them to develop solutions collaboratively, and of establishing a unique global ocean initiative.

While the initiative remains in the early phase of development, and additional work is required, it is exciting to see this case study come to fruition. To enact meaningful change, we need the entire seafood industry to work together on sustainable and science-based solutions.

It is a natural alliance for Thai Union, which emphasizes a science-based approach to sustainability.

In 2016, Thai Union committed to sourcing 100 percent of its branded tuna from fisheries that are either Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified or engaged in Fishery Improvement Projects to move them towards MSC certification. The MSC believe in the importance of evidence-based standard-setting, and seek to deliver a robust, effective and accessible program that keeps up with the latest scientific knowledge and industry practices. Thai Union is also a founding and active member of the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation, whose long-term goal is for conservation and sustainable use of global tuna fisheries through science-based practices, collaboration and advocacy.

The dialogue and connections resulting from the Stockholm Resilience Centre’s initiative represent a solid start and a key step to ensuring resilient oceans.

Dr. Darian McBain is the global director of sustainability for Thai Union.