Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Ocean conservation interview-Mike Sutton

Stop by Mongabay for an inteview of Mike Sutton, an ocean conservation leader now with the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Here's a teaser clip:

The Bluefin tuna is really the poster child of overfishing. It is the most valuable fish in the sea: one fish in the Tokyo market can bring more than $150,000. We call it the "Porsche of the Oceans" because the bluefin tuna is the size of a Porsche, 10 feet long and a 1500-pound upper size limit; it as fast as a Porsche, 0 to 60 in 5 seconds; and they are as valuable as a Porsche, 100 grand.
and another one:
Well, the whole idea is to create powerful economic incentives for sustainable fishing and ultimately conservation of the ocean. The Seafood Watch program, which is about seven years old now, was originally intended to build and maintain the salience of this issue with consumers, chefs, and businesses. The idea is that if consumers and businesses give preference to sustainable fisheries, they send a powerful signal from the marketplace back into the industry that there is a reward for improving fishing practices.

What we really want to do at the end of the day is change the politics of fishing by swinging industry support behind more effective regulation. In the past industry has been at best a benign force, while at worst it has actively lobbied against conservation measures. We want to turn that on its head. The ultimate goal of Seafood Watch is to change the politics of fishing.

What we've succeeded in doing so far after seven years and 20 million Seafood Watch cards is build the salience of this issue dramatically. The seafood cards are the most popular things we have ever done for aquarium visitors. Recent evaluations have shown that they make a huge difference in terms of awareness and behavior change among consumers, but more importantly we've also won the attention of the biggest seafood buyers in the nation; Wal-Mart, Costco, Aramark. Food service, retailers, and distributors like Sysco. Many of the nation’s biggest seafood buyers are now making commitments to sustainable seafood. So, it's rapidly becoming the commercial norm for big seafood buyers to pledge to buy only seafood from sustainable sources. Now, it's the same problem that Michael Pollan identified in his book, The Omnivore's Dilemma. He talked about the growth of industrial organic. When Wal-Mart goes organic, can the organic industry scale up to supply Wal-Mart, the biggest food retailer in the United States, or do you lose the essence of the movement in so doing? The jury is still out on that, and whether sustainable seafood can supply the biggest buyers in the nation. But what we have achieved so far is the biggest retailer and biggest food service company in the United States have made commitments for sustainable seafood and that is huge because if it is not on a shelf or not on the menu, you and I can't order it. These businesses make the choices on our behalf.

Before long, we hope unsustainable seafood simply won’t be available to consumers which will be a good thing.

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