What COVID-19 is teaching us about the needs of the sustainable seafood movement: Reflections of fresh-on-the-job Executive Director, Mariah Boyle

To say that this is an interesting time to start a new job would be an understatement. I stepped into the Executive Director role at the Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions in March, just as “normal” began to slip through our fingers. I had returned to the seafood world excited to get to work and to have meetings with all of you at the Seafood Expo North America in Boston. I thought we would discuss the Alliance’s new strategy and make bold plans together about how we were going to put it into action. 

But in the U.S., things changed quickly in early March. Suddenly, meetings were cancelled, public safety was in question, and tomorrow’s routine was no longer guaranteed. We collectively boarded an emotional rollercoaster with no exit in sight. 

Now, as the pandemic spreads across the globe, it is affecting lives in vastly different ways, and yet we do have one big thing in common: we are all figuring this out for the first time. I am finding it helpful to remind myself of this daily, as we are working hard to find ways to support sustainable seafood and those who work in this industry, but no doubt feeling the pressure and stress of the crisis.  

When things first began to escalate, the Conservation Alliance pivoted quickly and called our community together. We helped teams rapidly transition to working from home and discussed how to continue moving work forward in the midst of this pandemic. For a while, I had a hard time discerning where our work fit within this new reality. Then I read an article by António Guterres, a Portuguese politician serving as the Secretary General of the United Nations. He outlined a three-point call to action that put things into perspective. 

He notes that first, we must suppress transmission of the virus. 

Second, we must tackle the devastating social and economic dimensions of the crisis. 

And third, we must recover better. 

We must recover better. 

In this pandemic lies an opportunity for us to make decisions that improve our systems so we are less vulnerable and more capable of handling future challenges. This is where our work and this crisis intersect. We have always been striving to improve the health of people and the planet. Now, our work on sustainability, equity, and labor rights is even more important as we weather this disruption and prepare for others in the future.

In closing, I want to share my thanks and gratitude for our community and everyone working in a frontline job from healthcare to the food industry. While these times are incredibly difficult, people are showing up for each other and continuing to work toward a more sustainable and responsible seafood industry, and that is the first step toward recovering better.

Please share this post to tell others about the Alliance!