Fish account for roughly one fifth of all animal protein in the human diet, yet current demand is outpacing supply. In the US market alone, a shortfall of ¾ of a billion pounds is projected by 2025. This shortfall has multiple causes and requires a comprehensive solution that preserves ecosystem functions and creates a management framework that supports resource stewardship.
Historically, reforming fisheries revolved around a "buy / don't buy" decision-making strategy for companies and consumers, but there is an increasing recognition of fishery improvement projects (FIPs) as a middle ground that harnesses market forces to drive improvements in struggling fisheries. What distinguishes a FIP from more discrete strategies (e.g., gear modifications) is that FIPs are comprehensive, time-bound, multi-stakeholder initiatives that employ market incentives to advance sustainability.
The Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions (known as the Alliance), a coalition of North American NGOs working to preserve the health of ocean and ensure a long-term seafood supply developed guidelines to provide a definition and process for credible FIPs. To be considered for public recognition for moving toward sustainability, a FIP must take measureable steps within a defined timeframe to achieve a level of sustainability consistent with an unconditional pass of the Marine Stewardship Council. The goal is to reward those improvement efforts that embrace greater transparency, participation, and accountability.
It is estimated that more than 400 FIPs are needed to meet buyer demand for sustainable seafood supply and it is clear that no one group or entity can do it alone. Each stakeholder group brings a unique set of skills, expertise, and influence. Increasingly, FIPs are becoming an integral strategy in companies’ corporate citizenship and environmental sustainability goals. Companies, like Darden, with commitments to advancing the sustainability of their seafood supply chain have an important role to play in the FIP landscape. Partnering with NGOs like the New England Aquarium can help a company identify opportunities and guide their FIP activities. Likewise, collaborating with charitable institutions like the Walton Family Foundation via the Fishery Improvement Fund can leverage company investments with foundation financing for fishery improvements. Participation in FIPs can provide greater investment security, supply stability and elevate a company’s reputation as a responsible corporate citizen.
Ultimately, companies are only as sustainable as the resources upon which they rely.
Meghan Jeans serves as the New England Aquarium's Director of Conservation where she oversees the Sustainable Seafood Program and corporate advisory services promotes market-based and policy solutions to ocean conservation challenges. Meghan earned a J.D. and M.S. in environmental law and policy and is a member of the Marine Stewardship Council’s Stakeholder Council, the Fair Trade Fisheries Advisory Council and has served as an advisor to International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) and the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s Highly Migratory Species Advisory Subpanel.