Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Leaving China with Hope for a Sustainable Future

Blogging from the Beijing airport before boarding my flight back to D.C. Tuesday concluded a day spent on the trade show floor of the China Fisheries & Seafood Expo. This is the largest seafood trade show in Asia. It had approximately 800 exhibitors in three separate halls, one featuring international companies and the other two domestic. This year was also the first year for the trade show to include a Sustainable Seafood Pavilion housing stands from Det Norske Veritas, GlobalGap, Marine Stewardship Council, Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, WWF and ourselves, SeaWeb's Seafood Choices Program.

At the booth, we featured information about the upcoming Seafood Summit to be held January 31 to February 2 in Vancouver, Canada, including postcards about the event and other material in Chinese. The Seafood Summit is a unique conference that brings together global representatives from the seafood industry and conservation community for in-depth discussions, presentations and networking with the goal of making the seafood marketplace environmentally, socially and economically sustainable.

As the seafood industry increasingly focuses its tention on China as the world's largest seafood exporter and largest potential market for seafood consumption, SeaWeb is working with other organizations to scope our potential collaborative role in catalyzing greater sustainable practices in the Chinese marketplace. Bringing Chinese seafood industry stakeholders to the Seafood Summit is one good starting point to engage them in our broader, cross-sector conversations.

It was a great day connecting with industry players in the electrifying environment of the show floor. It featured exhibitors from more than 30 countries, including Norway, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, Iceland, South Korea, Peru and the UK. Exhibits featured large and small producers and distributors, country-specific promotion councils, logistics companies and equipment sales. Seeing the dizzying array of seafood, its origins and its destinations puts in plain view the challenges and complexities of the seafood trade. Having everyone under on roof also gives us hope, knowing that with the rightmotivation and will, we can get everyone working together toward greater sustainability leading to a diverse and healthy ocean.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Talking Traceability and Sustainability at the Forum

Philip Chou moderating “How Sustainable is Chinese Seafood? China's Attitude Towards Seafood Sustainability” at the forum.

Monday concluded a very successful day at the second China Sustainable Seafood Forum, which ran a full day of panels and presentations followed by a dinner that was attended by forum speakers, organizers, sponsors, and local dignitaries, including Consul General of the United States Sean Stein in Shenyang, China.

There was a good turnout of almost 200 attendees. The forum geared toward invited

Chinese producers, processors and exporters and government officials working in fisheries and aquaculture. Several representatives from international nongovernmental organizations were in attendance, including those from WWF's Smart Fishing Initiative, Sustainable Fisheries Partnership and the Marine Stewardship Council.

Attendees were given postcards, written in Chinese (lower, far right), about SeaWeb's upcoming Seafood Summit to be held January 31 through February 2 in Vancouver, Canada.

Some of the highlights and new themes from the forum that stood out are:

- More and more of China's seafood is going toward the domestic market and seafood imports to China are growing very quickly as Chinese citizenry become bigger global consumers. This was repeated both by SeaFare's Peter Redmayne and the Vice Executive President of China Aquatic Products Processing and Marketing Association's Mr. Cui He.

- Buyers of Chinese product represented by Canadian retailer Sobey's, European seafood processor Findus, and importer Santa Monica Seafood emphasized the internal processes they go to ensure sustainability and traceability of the products they source. Much of these processes go beyond outside certification, and there are many examples of buyers working hand-in-hand with producers on fisheries and aquaculture improvement projects.

- Fishmeal and fish oil are not a limiting factor to growth of the aquaculture industry, according to Director General of the International Fishmeal and Fish Oil Oranisation Jonathan Sheppard. Advances in use of alternative ingredients in feeds as well as better management of forage fish stocks are keeping up with the growing demands for fishmeal and fish oil in the aquaculture industry.

- According to a WWF-hosted panel on whitefish traceability, measures being called for by the European Commission to eliminate IUU fishing and improve food safety is creating advances in China's traceability systems. But most acknowledge it is a tough job for the Chinese industry, in particular for species that go through many channels into a processing plant and may be consolidated along the way.

Some of the lunch crowd in the beautiful venue, including Phil Werdal of Trace Register and David Smith of Sobeys.

The panel I moderated, "How Sustainable is Chinese Seafood? China's Attitude Towards Seafood Sustainability" considered the perspective of those working on the ground in China. Panelists included a major Chinese industry player, a governmental industry association, a nongovernmental organization working on aquaculture improvement projects and a Canadian company raising close containment farmed salmon in China. I think many of the non-Chinese listening may have been surprised at the leadership in environmental sustainability occurring at both the industry and governmental levels in China. I feel there is real pockets of momentum to improve sustainability practices, but the challenge lies in the vast size of the industry and the fiscal challenges for the great number of small and medium-sized enterprises that would need to make significant changes.

Again, it was a wonderful day. Beyond all the learning, many new relationships were formed and strengthened. The collaborative movement among government officials, retailers, Chinese producers and fellow nongovernmental organizations can catalyze and support the seafood movement in China.

Fabulous dinner after the forum! Left to right: Logan Kock of Santa Monica Seafoods, Jessica and Paul of SeaFare and Jonathan Shepherd of International Fishmeal and Fish Oil Organisation.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Arrived in Dalian!

After 20 plus hours of traveling, I'm finally in Dalian, China! On Saturday night I met up with Melanie Siggs as I transferred through Beijing International airport. Today, Sunday, was mostly a free day, but in the afternoon Melanie and I went to the convention center to pick up our badges for the Sustainable Seafood Forum and Seafood Expo, check on our booth location and scout out the venue. We were fortunate to have SeaFare Group's Peter Redmayne (with me, above), who is the lead organizer of the Forum and Expo, to show us around.

In the evening, we had a nice dinner with other presenters and sponsors of the Sustainable Seafood Forum. It was great to have the opportunity to meet each other before the Forum. As we left the restaurant, we saw these two huge shark fins and samples of shark fin menu items. There's definitely a lot to discuss around sustainability issues in China, and like the issues associated with shark finning, much of it is as much about understanding culture and history as it is about economic, social and environmental circumstances. Definitely looking forward to a big day tomorrow at the Forum discussions.