This week, sustainable seafood got its own channel. The triple-bottom-line online news and journalism powerhouse, Triple Pundit, launched Sustainable Seafood: the Business of a Healthier Catch as their most recent topic in which to explore the business and social wins of sustainability.
The global seafood industry is an enormous, complex tangle of businesses, biology, economics, policy, and deep-rooted cultural practices—it’s not an easy ocean to navigate. But, Triple Pundit is expert at proving the business case for sustainability in complex systems, including fashion and forestry. And if the first article in the series is representative of what’s to come, this channel promises to push the envelope on how we re-imagine solutions to overfishing.
This introductory piece highlights the work of our pod members and master storytellers Barton Seaver, Sea to Table, and Steve Vilnit and introduces to a whole new audience the power and profitability of what we call Storied Fish—the detailed journey of fish from water to plate. Take the story sustainable seafood chef Barton Seaver told at SOCAP13 about the time one of his purveyors came back to the dock with nothing but flying fish—the leftover bait from the unsuccessful fishing trip. Upon receiving boxes of the baitfish, Barton immediately gathered his restaurant staff, explained what had happened, quickly whipped up a new recipe, and instructed everyone to tell the detailed story behind the catch of the day. Not three hours later, they SOLD OUT OF BAIT at $28 a plate. That’s the power of story (and a talented chef).
Or, how about the story Business Insider featured last summer on famed San Diego sushi chef Rob Ruiz's unusual garnish: a delicate, rice-paper QR code on top of his gorgeous sushi rolls. Diners scan (then safely eat) the codes to receive data on the population status of the fish, where and how it was caught, and in some cases, the picture of the fisher who caught it. The result? A doubling of sashimi sales since the addition of the QR codes.
The idea that story + fish can be profitable is a concept that has received fascinating but minimal coverage by the media over the past two years. Yet, the work of entrepreneurs like Chef Ruiz and our own pod members provides critical early evidence that people care about the story behind their fish and will often pay more for it. And that sets up the lever for creating massive positive disruption in the supply chain.
As more buyers—be they chefs or Safeway shoppers—demand to know the who, what, where, why, and how of their seafood, the greater competitive advantage for businesses that are inventing and adopting the technology that can deliver that information. And just so happens that the very changes required to deliver Storied Fish also slam the door on illegal, unregulated, and mislabeled product, helping to address some of the biggest threats to ocean life (to learn more about how story and verified data work together to save fish and fishers, see our previous post).
We recognize talk of supply chains, traceability technology, refrigeration logistics, and other details of the system behind the seafood can make eyes glaze faster than a poorly iced fish spoils. But with Triple Pundit's masterful reporting and detailed knowledge of the business benefits of sustainability, we’re in for some fascinating and thought-provoking angles on the quest for sustainable seafood and better ocean health. Through their diverse audience of corporate executives, impact investors, and a wide-ranging community of conscious consumers, we hope this channel will engage a new wave of stakeholders, innovators, and change agents in the rich opportunities for creating a thriving seafood industry that meets the triple bottom line. Featuring stories that drive greater demand for Storied Fish is a great place to start.
Over the next few days, we will continue to explore the story behind the fish at the North American Seafood Expo (SENA). The schedule this year is chock full of sustainable seafood sessions, including a kick-off reception last night (Saturday) hosted by the Conservation Alliance for Sustainable Seafood. Unheard of even a few years ago, this unique group of 18 marine conservation organizations, is successfully partnering with major seafood companies, helping businesses achieve more ocean-friendly practices as part of their Common Vision for a more sustainable industry. A packed room with over 100 guests and new major industry partners shows the effort is gaining traction.
Published March 15, 2014