MAP Talks Traceability at Seattle Sustainable Seafood Week Industry Lab

MAP Talks Traceability at Seattle Sustainable Seafood Week Industry Lab

On August 5th, MAP Outreach and Development Coordinator Sara Lavenhar joined over 90 other stakeholders at the Seattle Sustainable Seafood Industry Lab, held at Ray’s Boathouse. This was the first Sustainable Seafood Week in Seattle, an event that was started in New York a few years ago.

The day began with classic Seattle weather – a bit overcast and cool temperatures, especially right off the water at Ray’s. Cheryl Dahle, Future of Fish Executive Director and Flip Labs C.E.O., got the event off to a good start, introducing the theme of traceability and setting a spunky tone with her fabulously fish-inspired outfit. She highlighted various issues that make traceability important, such as preventing slavery and fighting industry fraud and mislabeling. Beyond simply being a technical challenge, traceability is also a people problem; there is a culture of resistance in the industry, as well as infrastructure resistance, which means a lot of careful and intentional change needs to happen. Ms. Dahle also explained four different types tracking that need to be used simultaneously to reach end-to-end traceability.

The first panel explored the collaborative ecosystem that is developing to support robust and verifiable end-to-end solutions for traceability challenges worldwide. Moderated by Keith Flett, also of Future of Fish and Flip Labs, attendees heard from Duncan Berry, CEO and Co-Founder of Fishpeople; Thomas Craft, Founder of Insite Solutions; Eric Enno, Team Leader of Traceability Initiatives at Ecotrust Canada; and Stephen Pratt of Trace Register. Panelists explained some of the reasons why traceability is hard to achieve, namely that there are over 1400 species of seafood identified by the FDA and many small players in a huge global industry. They stressed that traceability initiatives need to be economical both for the fishermen implementing it and for auditing systems. It was in this panel that the term ‘storied fish’ emerged and continued to dominate conversations throughout the day.

Following the panel, attendees participated in a World Cafe brainstorming session. Each table would end up having a slightly different discussion, but there were definitely many common themes. Three questions were posed:

  • What is a positive impact that traceability can affect? (Each table was supposed to narrow one down)
  • What are the roadblocks to implementing traceability for the identified positive impact?
  • How can the participants at the table use their skills and assets to collaborate and address the issues preventing traceability?

Storied fish and informed purchasing were a common identified positive impact, with education (for both consumers and chefs) being one major roadblock to implementation. Many tables identified innovative ways to tell stories and become advocates for traceability as a way to overcome named challenges.

Following the exercise, Ms. Dahle briefly interviewed Dune Ives of Vulcan, Inc. to discuss the creation and development of Smart Catch, a new program to promote engagement of both chefs and consumers with the food they eat. The pilot program has over 90 participants, including Ray’s Boathouse where the lab was held.

The second panel focused on the challenges and solutions to sourcing sustainable seafood. Ms. Dahle stepped in again to moderate, and attendees heard from John Abrahamson of Provvista Specialty Foods, Justin Boevers of Fish Choice, Douglas Zellers from Ray’s, and Chef Renee Erickson, owner of The Walrus and The Carpenter. The panelists identified ways in which chefs, consumers, distributors, and suppliers could all work together to promote a more efficient and sustainable supply chain. The importance of empowering distributors to have an active role was emphasized. Seattle is getting loud enough to make real changes in the seafood industry, and that is an incredible step forward.

The final panel was moderated by Paul Dye, Director of Marine Conservation at The Nature Conservancy. Bill Dewey from Taylor Shellfish Farms, Preston Hardison of the Tulalip Tribes, Ellen Southard from Salmon-Safe and Stewardship Partners, and Jed Spikes from Whole Foods spoke about the impact of the built environment on local waterways, and in turn local seafood. Each told the story from their perspective, and how they address some of these issues. Attendees learned about the need for ecological restoration (a method MAP knows well!) and learning how to treat causes instead of just symptoms, even at large scales. Hardison brought up the idea of teleconnective systems – ones that span both time and space, and how that informs perspectives on restoration.

The day wrapped up with a networking reception featuring Salmon-safe certified wines.

Check out the conversation on Twitter!: