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.


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