“Fantastic work has been done”
Interview with Peter Hajipieris, champion of sustainability Sustainability is the main topic of fish international 2010 in Bremen. Experts from the fishing industry and related fields will discuss, how sustainability can be increased, and exchange experiences from 21 February to 23 February 2010 at the Bremen Exhibition Centre. One of them – to speak at the forum “Sustainability” – is Peter Hajipieris, Director of Sustainability and External Affairs at Birds Eye Iglo Group Limited and one of the best known champions of Sustainable Fisheries Development in the industry.
He will talk about the current sustainability landscape and the progress that has been made in the fishing industry.
Five questions in advance:
You have extensive experience in establishing sustainable work processes? Which advice can you give to companies that are still at the beginning of their way towards more sustainability?
Hajipieris: Companies must know that sustainability is a learning journey and not a destination you reach. I call the principles and programmes that are set to move along that journey as Sustainable Fisheries Development. Despite all the progress, the industry has made in the last few years, education and understanding the principles of Sustainable Fisheries Development is still the largest challenge the industry faces. Sustainable Fisheries Development requires a company to understand their operating landscape risks, prioritise those risks and then implementing programmes to reduce them. Companies who want to demonstrate that they run responsible businesses should start to engage in Sustainable Fisheries Development now and build up their capability because fisheries out of all the food sectors is the most complex to work in and that there is no such thing as a ‘one size fits all’ solution to fisheries sustainability.
How can each player in the industry support sustainability?
Hajipieris: Fisheries sustainability is so complex, diverse and political that defining clear roles for all the players has been and still is one of our great challenges. Aligning everyone to agree how global fisheries management should work to deliver sustainability requires us to remember our basic key roles.Governments: ensure there is a long-term food source for their populations, not short-term. Policymakers: design ecosystem based fisheries management frameworks with minimum waste and maximum resource utilisation principles built in. Industry: adopt a minimum responsible sourcing position in Sustainable Fisheries Development from fisheries that do not have IUU (Illegal, Unregulated and Unrecorded), full traceability, fisheries that operate to minimum recognised international standards such as the FAO Code for Responsible Fisheries, discouraging Discards and progressing towards certified fisheries such as the MSC for wild capture fisheries. The same applies for Aquaculture, source only from responsibly farmed operations with minimum responsibly sourced fishmeal inputs (such as the IFFO’s Responsible Sourcing Standard RSS) and progress to certified farming standards such as GlobalGAP.NGO’s: – we need them to use real science and accept that fisheries ecosystems are dynamic not fixed in their status and recognise and communicate industry’s positive change towards Sustainable Fisheries Development. This would encourage those who are not yet engaged in Sustainable Fisheries Development to join the journey instead of de-moralising and alienating them.
What is the status of the fisheries industry in terms of sustainability?
Hajipieris: Less than 5 years ago, the status of the fisheries industry was communicated in the media as bleak, unsustainable and on the edge of extinction. The fisheries industry reputation continues to be challenged today. The reality is that there are fisheries hot spots across the world, which are genuinely under pressure, but there are also many key fisheries which have improved in their sustainability status due to Sustainable Fisheries Development led by responsible quota owners and progressive companies. All the fish industry sectors, many policymakers, NGO’s and with the great help of those risking their lives to catch food for everyone, the fishermen, have responded. They have accepted changes to their fisheries practices to deliver responsibly managed fisheries and in many cases certified sustainability ‘sustainability’ with the MSC. In some parts of the world like US Alaska and Russia, the fisheries management frameworks are designed to deliver sustainability through sound and comprehensive fisheries legislative structures and mechanisms that have been working well for over 40 years but are often misunderstood. The recent challenges to the sustainability status of Alaskan Pollock because quotas have been reduced is an example when national fisheries take the necessary action to manage stocks but are then criticised for not reducing them enough.
Can you already give us some examples?
Hajipieris: There are many specific examples but I will choose some key strategic changes: Adoption of a minimum globally harmonised code of conduct for Responsible Fisheries – the FAO Code is not easily understood but we have a minimum reference point that has gradually become more widely recognised in the last five years after WWF & Birds Eye Iglo under Unilever used it as the basis to form the MSC over 10 years ago. Development of the Fishery Improvement Partnership model pioneered through this process above has now become a key Sustainable Fisheries Development method that has resulted in many new certified MSC fisheries. Many fisheries choose not to certify their status currently but at least we can compare if they operate to a responsibly managed standard by working to the FAO Code. The joining of industry organisations across Europe such as AIPCE to support the fight against IUU has resulted in EU legislation which has just come into force. Today, fisheries, which had a major problem with IUU, are progressing well such as the Baltic.NGO’s and industry have joined together and worked hard to lobby the EU and present the evidence to show the need for reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) in order to tackle the many challenges it presents such as Discards and Overfishing. The EU has just completed its public consultation and is examining how to reform the CFP to deliver a sustainable food supply that we hope will also enable fishermen to have a future. Finally, the growth of Aquaculture has led to ‘pressure points’ across the world but we must remember it is a young farming industry compared to land based farming. We have improved our understanding of Responsibly Managed Fish Farming immensely to the extent that today, there is real progress on Responsibly Sourced Fishmeal (IFFO RSS), significantly improved conversion ratio’s and many improvements in the management of local biodiversity impacts.
What will be the fishing industry’s biggest challenges?
Hajipieris: There are three key areas. First: Making certified wild capture and fish farming schemes affordable. The consumer is under great pressure on cost and we all have to satisfy that need. The great progress that has been achieved in these schemes is at risk unless we can make them affordable to the consumer. This means looking at policy and supply chain models or frameworks and challenging ourselves to evolve more optimum solutions going forward. It is a natural step in the process. The car industry took over 25 years to make safety features mainstream and affordable. It is just that in fisheries, we cannot wait that long.
Second, converting ‘transitional fisheries’ particularly in developing countries to certified sustainable status. And third, making sure the great potential in Aquaculture is not wasted by irresponsible farming practices.