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Eight of the world’s largest seafood companies have issued a ten-point statement committing to action on ocean stewardship following the first “keystone dialogue” between scientists and business leaders.
The companies commit to improving transparency and traceability and reducing illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in their supply chains. Antibiotic use in aquaculture, greenhouse gas emissions and plastic pollution will also be prioritized. The seafood businesses commit to eliminating any products in their supply chains that may have been obtained through “modern slavery including forced, bonded and child labour”.
A new global initiative
The statement says signatories “represent a global force, not only in the operation of the seafood industry, but also in contributing to a resilient planet.”
It was signed by the two largest companies by revenues (Maruha Nichiro Corporation and Nippon Suisan Kaisha, Ltd), the two largest tuna companies (Thai Union Group PCL and Dongwon Industries), the two largest salmon farmers (Marine Harvest ASA and Cermaq – subsidiary of Mitsubishi Corporation) and the two largest aquafeeds companies (Skretting – subsidiary of Nutreco, and Cargill Aqua Nutrition).
The announcement is part of a new initiative - the Seafood Business for Ocean Stewardship – that, for the first time, connects wild capture fisheries to aquaculture businesses, connects European and North American companies to Asian companies and connects the global seafood business to science. The initiative is the conclusion of the Soneva Dialogue, a unique meeting between CEOs, senior leadership of major seafood companies, and leading scientists.
The dialogue, initiated by the Stockholm Resilience Centre, took place 11-13 November at the Soneva Fushi Resort on the Maldives under the patronage of HRH Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden – Advocate for the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The dialogue was a Stockholm Resilience Centre event supported by Forum for the Future and the Soneva Foundation. The Walton Family Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation funded the dialogue.
“We depend on a stable and resilient planet for human prosperity. However, science is already providing evidence that we have entered the Anthropocene, an epoch where humanity is now challenging the stability of Earth and its ocean.”
Seafood Business for Ocean Stewardship initiative
What are keystone actors?
The dialogue is the first between scientists and “keystone actors” a term coined in 2015 by Carl Folke and Henrik Österblom, science directors at the Stockholm Resilience Centre. Keystone species play a disproportional role in determining the structure and function of an ecosystem. Increasingly, large transnational corporations now play this role, for example, in the oceans and in rainforests.
Österblom led research identifying the keystone actors in the world’s oceans. The team identified 13 transnational corporations controlling 11-16% of wild marine catch and up to 40% of the largest and most valuable fish stocks.
“We invited the leaders of these companies to a dialogue to build trust and develop a common understanding about the state of the oceans,” said Österblom.
“We were delighted so many companies accepted our offer. This shows they are aware of the urgency of the situation and willing to engage in these issues.”
Better management can increase annual catches
According to related research published by a group of U.S. scientists in 2016, by 2050, good management of global fisheries could lead to increase in annual catches of over 16 million metric tons and $53 billion in profit compared to the current trajectory.
Stockholm Resilience Centre Director Johan Rockström said, “The small concentration of multinational companies means that CEOs are significant leverage points to effectively engage in transforming the entire seafood sector towards more sustainable practices”.
UK-based Forum for the Future’s founding director Jonathon Porritt, said: "It's hugely encouraging to see these leading companies in the global seafood industry making such critical commitments to help protect the world's oceans. This combination of world-class science and inspirational corporate leadership is a powerful one - and I've no doubt we'll need to see a lot more of it over the next few years." The organization was a key supporter of the dialogue.
“Creating more awareness of the opportunities – and business necessities – of managing seafood sustainably should be a key priority for CEOs,” added Jean-Baptiste Jouffray, PhD candidate at the Stockholm Resilience Centre.
The first keystone dialogue will now be followed up with additional meetings and dialogue between science and business. A next meeting is already scheduled for next year, where more concrete joint actions will be identified.
Henrik Österblom serves as deputy science director at the Stockholm Resilience Centre. He holds a position as senior lecturer in environmental sciences and his primary research interests are 1) Globalization of marine social-ecological systems, 2) International relations and the dynamics of transnational corporations and 3) Seabirds and ecosystem change.
Carl Folke is science director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre. He has extensive experience in transdisciplinary collaboration between natural and social scientists, and has worked with ecosystem dynamics and services as well as the social and economic dimension of ecosystem management and proactive measures to manage resilience.
Johan Rockström is the director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre. He is an internationally recognized scientist for his work on global sustainability issues. He helped lead the internationally renowned team of scientists that presented the planetary boundaries framework, first published in 2009, with an update in 2015.
Jean-Baptiste Jouffray is a joint PhD student of Stockholm Resilience Centre, the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics and the Global Economic Dynamics and the Biosphere programme. His research explores the relationship between humans and the marine ecosystem.