According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), “Fish represents a valuable source of proteins and nutrients in the diet of many countries and its importance in contributing to food security is rising significantly.”
This week, March 10–13, Slow Food New Orleans will host “Slow Fish 2016 in New Orleans: Gateway to the Americas.” This is first time the event is being held in the Western Hemisphere. It has taken place previously every two years in Genoa, Italy. It will be a gathering of Slow Fish delegates, fishers, scientists, chefs, students, and food artisans from all over the globe and include a public seafood festival. The event is meant to be an opportunity for attendees to discuss the issues that are affecting oceans and fisheries worldwide and to develop sustainable strategies for the farming, catching, and consumption of seafood.
The theme, “Gateway to the Americas,” signifies the history of New Orleans as the central port of trade connecting the Americas; it also acts as an inclusive invitation for Slow Fish and Slow Food delegates throughout North, Central, and South America to attend the event. The festival is designed to engage the public in a “celebration of the diversity of fishing and culinary cultures across the Americas to promote the Slow Food mission of good, clean, and fair food for everyone.”
“Looking after the environment and the planet we live on is the most important issue of our time, and an obligation for everyone who works with food. We want to rediscover the pleasure of taking care of the Earth, together with producers, teachers, chefs, academics, farmers, food communities and above all, everyday people and families,” says Serena Milano, General Secretary of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity.
Globally, fish consumption is at a record high—per capita fish consumption increased from 10 kilograms in the 1960s to more than 19 kilograms in 2012. “Never before have people consumed so much fish or depended so greatly on the sector for their well-being,” states FAO in The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2014. There are many organizations and individuals working worldwide to increase the sustainability of seafood, such as Slow Food New Orleans, who is hosting a sustainable seafood event later this spring.
Slow Food New Orleans is one of many organizations worldwide that is working to create a more sustainable seafood system. The following organizations also play a role in promoting sustainable fishing and seafood practices, from Australia to South Africa to Canada:
• Asian Marine Conservation Association (AMCA) is an international NGO founded in 1988 in West Bengal, India. The AMCA scientists and researchers focus their work on the marine environment, climate change, coastal resource management, education, and research. AMCA also has its own Institute of Marine Studies, which serves as a training and education institution for young professionals.
• Australian Marine Conservation Society is an independent charity founded in 1965 that focuses on creating large marine sanctuaries and sustainable fisheries, as well as protecting and recovering threatened wildlife in the ocean. The Society’s new campaign, “Label My Fish,” is working to change Australian law to require more information on seafood labels.
• Fish2Fork assesses restaurants according to the sustainability of the seafood they serve and the impact that seafood has on oceans and marine life. The organization also campaigns for improved fishery operations and helps promote information about sustainable seafood. Fish2Fork reviews restaurants in the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Belgium, United States, and Switzerland.
• FishChoice was founded in 2008 as a directory tool to “fill a crucial missing link in the supply chain.” They connect buyers and sellers of sustainable seafood to make it easier to find, procure, and sell fish products. FishChoice collaborates with the leading sustainable seafood organizations who have “established their credibility through science-based approaches in evaluating wild and farmed seafood production.” FishChoice has seafood products from all over the world, with the majority of users in North America.
• Greenpeace International has fish guides to inform consumers about the sustainability of different kinds of seafood. The organization focuses on many various components of the environment including oceans, energy, forests, and agriculture.
• International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) was launched in 2009 by leading scientists and environmentalists to change the future of global tuna fisheries. The Foundation continues to include more tuna companies in their conservation efforts, with the most recently added companies being from Indonesia and the Philippines.
• Marine Stewardship Council is an international nonprofit organization that was established in 1996 to “address the problem of unsustainable fishing and safeguard seafood supplies for the future.” The Council has its own MSC label for seafood products that ensures the products come from a certified sustainable fishery.
• Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch is empowering individuals and businesses to make more sustainable seafood choices that protect the world’s oceans. The organization raises public awareness about these issues through consumer guides, which direct the consumer to seafood choices that are the “best choice” for advancing sustainable seafood.
• Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance (NAMA), a fishermen-led organization with the mission to “enhance and maintain healthy marine ecosystems by organizing a decentralized network of community-based fishermen, fish workers, and allies,” was founded in 1995. NAMA is present at many events year-round, and the organization’s website highlights Slow Fish 2016.
• RIPPLE Africa is a Malawi-based charity started in 2003, providing “a hand UP, not a hand out.” The organization has established 40 Fish Conservation Committees along the Lake Malawi shoreline that are “empowered to manage the fishing in their area and make all people and fishermen aware of local bylaws.”
• Sailors for the Sea is a conservation organization headquartered in Rhode Island that empowers sailors and boaters to become catalysts for change to save the ocean. It has two affiliates: Sailors for the Sea Japan and Sailors for the Sea Portugal.
• SeaChoice, Canada’s “most comprehensive sustainable seafood program,” was launched in 2006 to create healthier oceans. SeaChoice partners with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program and is operated by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.
• Sea Sense is an NGO in Tanzania that works with coastal communities to protect and conserve endangered marine species. “Sea Sense has a ‘grassroots’ approach to conservation and has recruited and trained a network of over 60 Conservation Officers who act as ‘ambassadors for conservation’ in their village and serve as a vital link between Sea Sense and the wider community.”
• Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) is an international nonprofit organization that focuses on conserving marine wildlife. The mission of SSCS is to “end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world’s oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species.”
• Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) was established by the World Wildlife Fund in 2004 to change South Africa’s local seafood industry and protect the threatened future of the oceans around South Africa. According to SASSI, “sustainable seafood is about more than just how, and how many, fish are caught, it is also about how seafood is traded.”
• Ugandan Fisheries and Fish Conservation Association (UFFCA) is directed by Seremos Kamuturaki, who has been working since the 1990s to give a voice to fishers and fishing communities in Uganda. UFFCA works to change not only fishers’ rights, but also fishery policies, the protection of fish populations, and the representation of women in fishing communities.
(Danielle Nierenberg, President, Food Tank, foodtank.com)