Source: Undercurrent News
The Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA) and the Marine Ingredients Organization (IFFO) believe educating Asia consumers can be the most effective way of ending illegal fishing.
East Timor police and the group Sea Shepherd helped bust a Chinese shark finning vessel linked with Pingtan Marine Enterprise in September. In August, satellite imagery helped Ecuadorian authorities apprehend a large refrigeration vessel full of hammerhead sharks near the Galapagos Islands. The busts are only the tip of the iceberg of illicit fishing emanating from Asia, according to the GAA and IFFO.
But the GAA has focused on educating consumers to stamp out fishing from illegal, unreported and unidentified (IUU) vessels, especially as China’s food sector consolidates into large-scale, e-commerce hubs such as Alibaba and JD.com.
“Consumers are not confident of the food safety of some of the foods in China,” George Chamberlain, head of the GAA, told Undercurrent News. “We can help build that confidence through certification.”
In addition to their individual efforts, the GAA and the IFFO officially started an 18-month study of fishery practices in Southeast Asia in July, in a bid to improve responsible fishing for the fishmeal industry. The effort, led by Duncan Leadbitter of consultancy Fish Matter, will focus on Thailand and Vietnam.
South and Southeast Asia are a black spot in an otherwise improving global fish industry, said Ray Hilborn, a renowned fisheries researcher at the University of Washington. The region stands out for not enforcing regulations while most fisheries in other parts of the world have adopted more stringent conditions to ensure sustainability, Hilborn said.
Alibaba has opened 13 stores with delivery in the Chinese cities of Shanghai, Beijing and Ningbo. The centers offer in-depth information about the traceability of the seafood, Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang said in July.
The GAA signed an agreement with JD.com earlier this year to certify seafood for Chinese consumers. E-commerce platforms allow the GAA to build awareness of its Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) directly with Chinese consumers. The GAA also signed a similar agreement with Yiguo.com.
“We are trying to work with government authorities and markets and build awareness of the sustainability issues,” Chamberlain said. “The Chinese market is just one of the biggest of the world and by far the biggest producer.”
The IFFO has focused its efforts on the fishmeal industry in Asia, where fish to be ground up for fishmeal is often caught as a by-product and is treated in sup-optimal conditions, Neil Auchterlone, IFFO’s technical director, told Undercurrent.
Part of the problem is that catches in Asian waters often yield multi-species catches, unlike the large concentrations of menhaden found in the Gulf of Mexico, or anchovy found off the Peruvian coast, Auchterlonie said. The hope is to improve fisheries management in Southeast Asia, bringing the region in line with the well-managed pelagic fish industries of South America and the North Atlantic, he said.