Reflections on the 2019 SeaWeb Seafood Summit

The World's Premier Conference on Seafood Sustainability

Amy Breckon, Project Director at the Alliance, attended the 2019 SeaWeb Seafood Summit in Bangkok, Thailand last week. Below, she reflects on her time at the Summit and how our collaborations can be strengthened to drive impact in the sustainable seafood space.

On Monday morning, I sat down at my home office in Napa, California with a large cup of coffee. I was droopy-eyed with jet lag, but after a week in Thailand at the Seafood Summit, I was buzzing with new connections, reconnections, ah-ha moments and new ideas for how we can collaborate for impact in the sustainable seafood movement.

At this year’s Summit, concepts, tools, and strategies being employed in contexts around the globe were shared, from elevating and responding to worker voices; to marketplace tools that clarify buyer expectations and more effectively engage suppliers; to regional collaborations around the world. Learning from these various strategies helps to paint a colorful and diverse picture of the broad sustainable seafood landscape, a perspective which is critical to effectively identify opportunities for the Alliance to organize for collective impact.

But the true magic of the conference was the storytelling that wrapped the more analytical presentations in a context of often stark realism and human experience. Fishers who survived slavery and abuse attended the conference and told their stories, making clear the need for strong government and corporate policies that protect migrants from the terrible abuses they are currently suffering, and that engage and empower fishers in supply chains. On the other end of the spectrum, stories of fishing communities around the world who are seeing added value to their catch, improved livelihoods, and the protection of fishing heritage, show the potential for sustainably minded companies to do things in a different, more responsible and just way, providing conscious consumers with fish they can feel good about putting on their tables.

With all the buzz of last week, I’ve turned a question over in my mind: what should we be doing differently? Here are four ideas that come to mind:

  • better demonstrate that investing in fishers and fisheries will have a return on investment that makes it worthwhile
  • create a safe space for airing of conflicts and facilitation of compromise and paths toward collaboration
  • learn from other initiatives and sectors (like palm oil, cotton, and manufacturing)
  • environmental, social, and economic issues are inextricably interlinked and should not be considered separately as we look for solutions

I look forward to hearing from many of you in the sustainable seafood community to learn what you took away from last week’s gathering working together in new and more impactful ways in the coming year.