Written by Bas Geerts, Lead Seafood Stewardship Index 

Allegedly, 1 in 7 people on earth rely on seafood as an important part of their diet, for income or for both. Yet at the same time, over 90% of all fish stocks are either overfished (33.1%) or fished at their maximum capacity (59.9%). This is a very precarious state to be in. Moreover, the world’s population is still on the rise and will be for some more decades. This means we will have many more mouths to feed and families to sustain. We cannot afford to run out of supply so we must change the way we produce our seafood.

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) were adopted by all 193 UN member states and continue to play a central role in their national policies and international development agenda. There is now the recognition that these goals cannot be reached without having industry working alongside them. Shoulder to shoulder, the public and the private sector can and must work on making the world a better place. For humanity to survive, and for humanity to thrive!

For the seafood industry, SDG 14 Life Below Water is an obvious and important goal. Looking across the SDGs and at the issues the industry is facing, however, there are more SDGs this sector can and must contribute to. In our development process to date we have identified the following SDGs as the most relevant to the sector:

– SDG 1 – No Poverty
– SDG 2 – Zero Hunger
– SDG 5 – Gender Equality
– SDG 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth
– SDG 12 – Responsible Consumption and Production
– SDG 14 – Life Below Water
– SDG 15 – Life on Land

The Seafood Stewardship Index (SSI) is one of the first five benchmarks which the World Benchmarking Alliance announced during their launch in September. Preparations for it go as far back as 2015, while the actual development process began in August 2017 during which time we started to expand the SSI team. Last month we sent out our draft methodology for an 8-weeks’ public consultation soon (closing 17 Dec).

Our draft methodology is based on best available science, existing principles and normative standards, corporate reporting frameworks and sector-, product- and issue-specific initiatives. Alongside scoping exercises of what is already out there and learning from it, we also continuously reach out to many experts in and around the industry – ranging from companies to NGOs and from experts to governments. We aim to have a fair and balanced methodology which will enable us to assess the key issues the industry is facing today.

Our Seafood Stewardship Index (expected end 2019) will provide a good insight into how and to what extent the world’s 30 leading companies, selected based on their turn-over, contribute to the SDGs most closely related to their operations. We have been in contact with these companies from the start, to involve them in the methodology development process and to inform them on what they can expect once we publish the Index.

Once ready, all our indexes, including other benchmark methodologies, will be publicly available and free of costs to everyone who is interested in them. Other indexes, like the Access to Medicine Index or the Access to Seeds Index, have proven effective tools for driving better-informed stakeholder engagement. From investors to credit providers and from NGOs to governments, all these stakeholders actively used the information from the available indexes in their interactions with companies.

The index looks at the industry in a neutral, non-biased way. We will show the situation ‘as is’ and we will do so in an straightforward manner. This way, the Seafood Stewardship Index will give credit to those companies who lead the way, while holding others to account. Existing indexes have also proven to be an effective peer-to-peer learning tool, which we expect our indexes to be as well.

We can’t wait to hear your feedback on our draft methodology for our Seafood Stewardship Index during our public consultation, which started 22 October and will run for 8 weeks, effectively closing 17 Dec 2018.