Partnership of African countries earns international innovation award for acting to combat large-scale illegal fishing

SEATTLE, Wash., June 5, 2017FISH-i Africa, a partnership of eight East African countries, received the Seafood Champion Award for Innovation today at the opening reception of the SeaWeb Seafood Summit in Seattle.

The annual Seafood Champion Awards recognize individuals and organizations for excellence in promoting ocean health and environmentally responsible seafood with honors in four categories: innovation, leadership, vision and advocacy.

FISH-i Africa is delighted to be the Seafood Champion for Innovation, 2017. Developing countries are often seen as powerless to prevent or stop the illegal fishing that takes place in their waters. FISH-i has challenged this perception: with a low cost solution it has proved that united these countries can make significant change,” said Per Erik Bergh, Stop Illegal Fishing Coordinator and member of the FISH-i Technical and Coordinating Teams. “This award is recognition for all the Task Force members who have been prepared to do things differently, to work together with their neighbours and to really take on the challenge of stopping illegal fishing. Illegal fishing undermines efforts for sustainability and should be a concern for everyone involved in the seafood industry. We hope this award will enable FISH-i to grow its network and to work more closely with the seafood industry to improve transparency and sustainability.”

FISH-i Africa earned the top award in the innovation category for sharing information and taking collective enforcement action to combat large-scale illegal fishing. Its string of investigations and prosecutions has created a strong deterrence to illegal activity and promoted legitimate operators.

“This is true innovation and proof that collaboration is key to success—fish do not respect boundaries,” said judge Momo Kochen, director of programs and science for MDPI, Indonesia. “I hope the FISH-i template will be used in other places also.”

FISH-i Africa was recognized along with four winners in the other three categories:

Susi Pudjiastuti, Indonesia’s Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries since 2014, earned the Seafood Champion Award for Leadership for her coordinated actions against harmful fishing practices. She has banned the use of bottom trawlers and other unsustainable catching devices; led the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated(IUU) fishing in her geographically dispersed island nation; and fought against the use of forced labor on fishing vessels.

Matthew Beaudin, executive chef of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, earned the Seafood Champion Award for Vision for leading the shift to local and sustainable seafood within the Monterey Bay restaurant scene. In 2016, Chef Matt visited more than 20 cities to promote Seafood Watch and responsible sourcing. He is a regional and cross-border leader, having also developed aquaponics programs to support HIV-positive orphans in Mexico.

Sharing the Seafood Champion Award for Advocacy were the International Pole & Line Foundation and Ned Bell, Ocean Wise executive chef at the Vancouver Aquarium and founder of Chefs for Oceans. IPNLF earned its place at the top for spearheading Indian Ocean tuna fisheries reform, most notably the adoption of a precautionary harvest strategy by the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission—a huge leap forward for global tuna management. Chef Ned has made sustainable seafood his mission. In 2014, he rode his bike 8,700 km across Canada, hosting 20 events alongside some of the country’s best chefs to raise awareness of sustainable seafood.

“The 2017 Seafood Champions demonstrate that courage and creativity can drive progress on seafood sustainability worldwide,” said Mark Spalding, president of SeaWeb and The Ocean Foundation. “These Champions have made smart use of strategies and tools tailored to their unique situations. Some employed teamwork and diplomacy to patiently overcome resistance. Others took bold actions. All have shown the determination and leadership that are the core qualities of Seafood Champions.”

The judges chose winners from a group of 16 finalists doing remarkable work in their home waters or in multinational coalitions. They winnowed the finalists from an outstanding group of 115 nominees working in 43 countries, reflecting a sector that is increasingly global, collaborative and distributed throughout the supply chain.

The Seafood Champions were honored June 5 at the SeaWeb Seafood Summit kickoff reception, sponsored by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. Seafood sustainability leaders from around the world attended the event, which was held at Chihuly Garden and Glass.

For more information on the awards, go to www.seafoodchampions.org.