Chair, ISSF Board of Directors Director, Sustainable Development, Bolton Food
Changing the World — With Caution
As I write these words, tragedy is sweeping across nearly every landmass on Earth. With so much of the human population at risk, it might be tempting to question the relative urgency of events, issues and practices that occur mostly out of sight, far out to sea. Right now, how much do they matter? And are any of us really making a difference?
As a member of the ISSF team from the beginning, I can assure you of two things: The events, issues and practices of marine-life sustainability do matter, perhaps now more than ever. And, yes, we really are making a difference.
Making a Difference
I've watched ISSF grow and mature since its birth, 11 years ago. I was there when the foundation took its first steps into marine resources management. I remember how it assembled a diverse band of international leaders, drawn from non-governmental organizations, the marine sciences, government agencies and the seafood industry. And I saw the concept of collaborative, “science first” sustainability gain traction, globally.
High on our list of concerns, back in 2009, was the glacial pace of government policy decisions. Our model was designed to speed things up — but cautiously. Of course we acknowledged that every fishery needed improvement. But, when impatient voices pressed for unproven tactics and silver-bullet solutions, we pushed back. We knew that quick fixes could never untangle the complex issues that enmeshed fisheries around the world.
Methodically, we introduced science-based approaches, ensuring that objective research would underlie a new groundswell of decisions. Systematically, we rolled out one Conservation Measure after another — for example, the measures that applied to traceability; International Maritime Organization (IMO) vessel registration; and illegal/unreported/unregulated (IUU) fishing. They were decisive policy recommendations from the start.
So — have we really made a worthwhile difference? Two outcomes, among many, show that our work has indeed changed the world in significant ways.
Together, scientists and fishers are revolutionizing sustainable practices. In game-changing collaborations, scientists, skippers, fleet owners and RFMOs have produced a wealth of best practices. New bycatch and FAD tactics, for example, save countless sharks and other species every year.
Transparency is lending new credibility to the supply chain. It's never been easier to trace seafood accurately from catch to consumer. Auditing and accountability have replaced unsupported sourcing claims.
In short: Yes, the events, issues and practices of marine-life sustainability do matter. And, yes, we really are making a difference.
That's why, in spite of a worldwide crisis in human health, we persist. When the current turmoil finally settles down, we'll remain energized by a vision: That, some day, sustainable resource management will be so far advanced that our work will be finished. Until that time, ISSF will continue to make significant contributions toward that end. By blending science and collaboration in new and creative ways, ISSF is determined to defend the oceans, and the resources they support, for the good of the world's economies and humanity itself.
Luciano Pirovano Chair, ISSF Board of Directors Director, Sustainable Development, Bolton Food
Thank you for your interest in ISSF’s activities and accomplishments in 2019, which marked our first “Decade of Discovery.” I am proud to share our annual report highlighting ISSF’s 10th anniversary year — and deeply grateful to the staff, Board and Committee members, and colleagues at seafood companies, NGOs, RFMOs, and government agencies around the globe for everything they do to help ensure healthier oceans and food and economic security for all. My heart is heavy, however, as I write this letter in March 2020, watching our world grapple with the Covid-19 pandemic, an unprecedented medical, economic, and humanitarian crisis. I can only hope that, by the time you read this, containment efforts have succeeded and lives have been saved. All of us in the ISSF family send our best wishes for your and your families’ health, well-being, and safety.
Reaching Across Continents to Share Resources
From the beginning, ISSF’s tuna conservation work has required a one-world, one-planet perspective — and a consensus-building approach, as challenging as that is for any complex issue. The ISSF team has long appreciated that solving environmental problems means reaching across continents in the spirit of goodwill to share scientific information and resources, learn from each other’s insights and experiences, and make steady progress for the common good.
In 2019 alone, for example, ISSF staff participated in more than 120 meetings in 30 countries with tuna vessels, retailers, seafood industry leaders, environmental NGOs, Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs), fishery improvement projects (FIPs), government agencies, charitable foundations, and other individuals and organizations united in their determination to ensure seafood sustainability for generations of fishers and families. We also published 13 reports and hosted 12 skippers workshops.
Joining Forces to Tackle Complex Problems
ISSF’s own story is a testament to being smarter, stronger, and more effective when we work together. For true change to happen in tuna fisheries, it needs to be done at a global level. But years ago, the seafood-sustainability community was fragmented. Environmental NGOs lived in their own universes, launched their own public awareness campaigns, and petitioned governments and RFMOs separately, not as a united front. Despite their mutual goals, they often diverged sharply on positions and tactics. Science was not necessarily part of the conversation. Confronted with conflicting NGO data and pleas, seafood-industry and government decisionmakers tended to retreat from tackling the legitimate conservation issues that were being raised. Among RFMOs, too, there was unprecedented inaction.
Amid this stasis, we conceived ISSF as an independent, inclusive body that would allow sustainability stakeholders to communicate with one voice — and advance an ambitious, multi-faceted agenda.
Our Environmental Stakeholder Committee convened experts from those NGOs on a volunteer basis, for example. Accomplished marine and fisheries scientists from around the world joined our Scientific Advisory Committee to advise our Board of Directors and guide ISSF research priorities and projects. And eight progressive seafood companies signed on to be our first participating companies.
Affirming Our Mission and Vision
Looking back on ISSF’s early years, I am pleased by how much we did “right”: we knew which stakeholders needed to be at the table, we identified what needed to be worked on, and we had a theory of change. Since then, as we have realized how much effort that change will take, we have persisted. Our second decade is underway, and ISSF continues to be globally minded and scientifically driven. We are still debating, discovering, and pioneering — for example, through last year’s International Workshop on Mitigating Environmental Impacts of Tropical Tuna Purse Seine Fisheries and the ISSF Seafood Sustainability Contest, both of which you can read about in these pages. I am excited about how many more people and markets are engaging in this progress with us. We do not take your support for granted, and I hope that ISSF’s enduring commitments and positive collaborations give you hope and inspiration, now and always.
Susan Jackson President, ISSF