I am honored to accept the role as Chair of the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation’s (ISSF) Environmental Stakeholder Committee – as decided by the full Committee at its 12th meeting in March 2016 – to support the ISSF Board of Directors with my ESC colleagues in the seafood conservation space. The diverse set of knowledge and expert opinions that make the Committee what it is will continue to be vital in guiding ISSF toward the realization of its strategic goal – the long-term conservation and sustainable use of tuna stocks, reducing bycatch and promoting ecosystem health.
The ESC’s membership is made up of some of the world’s foremost conservation specialists and advocates, representing organizations as diverse as WWF, Shark Advocates International, Conservation International and BirdLife International. And its reach and resources extend beyond this core group thanks to an observer policy that has brought countless other NGOs to the table for the ESC semi-annual meetings as well for collaborative efforts such as tuna RFMO advocacy. It’s been rewarding in my tenure as an ESC member to see our input directly inform ISSF work; incorporated specifically into ISSF conservation measures on IUU and traceability, for example, or evident more broadly in ISSF’s commitment to transparency and compliance via participating company compliance audits. Together with the tuna fisheries management, marine science and industry experts and representatives that comprise the ISSF Scientific Advisory Committee and the ISSF Board, we are well positioned to make a positive impact on the world’s tuna fisheries – and ultimately our oceans.
Tuna fisheries face what can seem like an uphill climb when you consider issues like IUU fishing, stock health and bycatch. But member NGOs of the ESC are committed to identifying and addressing the problems that exist head on. One area I’m excited to continue and build upon as ESC Chair is around fostering a coordinated approach in support of necessary management measures. An area where we’ve already demonstrated success in greater NGO collaboration is through the Buyer Engagement Strategy Team (BEST) working group, a subset of the ESC made up of leading NGOs. As outlined in the group’s Common Ground document, participating NGOs are advising businesses to, for example:
- Encourage improvements to global tuna stocks to a level of performance consistent with that of an unconditional pass of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard;
- Adopt a shared principle for sourcing guidance;
- Recommend a minimum procurement benchmark incorporating ISSF participating companies and vessels registered on the ProActive Vessel Register, regardless of channel, product form, gear type, etc. and;
- Adopt shared priorities for RMFO advocacy efforts.
The long-term sustainability of tuna fisheries is not a short-term effort – it can be achieved only through consistent effort and a focus on continuous improvement. From an increase in the number of large-scale purse seine vessels with unique vessel identifiers to outreach to hundreds of fishers regarding at-sea sustainability best practices, ISSF, together with its wide-ranging partners from the seafood industry, NGO and scientific communities, is making a difference when it comes to tuna sustainability. We look forward to expanding such concrete action through constructive engagement with multiple stakeholders that share our common goals.
As I recently wrote for National Geographic with my colleague ISSF President Susan Jackson, to have the impact we all seek, many NGOs recognize the need for better collaboration on and advocacy for the outcomes and policies where we share common ground. And in doing so, we strive to not let the how distract from the what we want to achieve, and why.
Jennifer Dianto Kemmerly is Seafood Watch Director, Monterey Bay Aquarium and a long-time member of the ISSF Environmental Stakeholder Committee.