World's largest seafood companies unveil more sustainable efforts to transform the sector

SeaBOS, a partnership between ten of the largest seafood companies in the world and leading sustainability scientists, is moving into the next phase to advance ocean stewardship.

World’s largest seafood companies unveil more sustainable efforts to transform the sector
October 26, 2021

SeaBOS, a partnership between ten of the largest seafood companies in the world and leading sustainability scientists, agreed during its annual CEO meeting to continue activities designed to eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing and forced labor throughout their operations and supply chains, protect endangered species, phase out their use of antibiotics, reduce plastic pollution, and continue efforts to limit their greenhouse gas emissions.

Since its launch in 2016, the unique partnership between seafood companies and scientific partners has developed into a powerful model of cooperation to advance ocean stewardship not only in their own operations but throughout the entire seafood sector. Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden has been an active supporter of the initiative from the start. 

Henrik Österblom, director of science at Stockholm Resilience Centre, noted that “the science of SeaBOS and concept that led to its formation is now moving into the next phase as members implement and meet specific goals towards achieving their original commitments. This is exciting, particularly as there are other industry sectors following the learnings of SeaBOS, and developing science-based solutions to global challenges.”

Key highlights from the meeting included:

Eliminating IUU fishing and forced labor. SeaBOS companies confirmed that individual risk assessments of their own operations showed no IUU fishing or forced labor activities. Members will now extend efforts to assess the risk of IUU fishing and labor abuse across their entire supply chain. Given the endemic nature of these issues throughout the seafood sector, members recognize that risks remain high of either or both being found in seafood operations. Members committed to working with relevant actors to continue to assess and reduce their risk and should any indication of IUU fishing or labor abuse be found to act upon them swiftly and transparently.

To assess and help address these risks, several science-based and operational solutions have been and will continue to be applied, including:

  • A global effort to map risks of IUU fishing and forced labor at the port, sea and associated with transshipment.
  • Electronic monitoring and use of novel technologies to extend traceability.
  • Voluntary procurement actions alongside a tool kit of policies and procedures, and third-party certification approaches.

Protecting endangered species. SeaBOS members will engage in new efforts to minimize impacts on endangered species, with an initial focus on elasmobranchs (sharks and rays) and seabirds. CEOs agreed on a SeaBOS Endangered Species Strategy to achieve these aims. “SeaBOS members will identify global ‘best practice’ measures to reduce their impacts on endangered sharks and rays, as well as endangered seabirds, and extend science-based solutions to more species groups in the future,” said Therese Log Bergjord, chair of SeaBOS, and CEO of Skretting/COO Nutreco.

Reducing the need for antibiotics. Amid the risks of antimicrobial resistance, working towards reducing the use of antibiotics in aquaculture is one of SeaBOS’ key commitments. Surveys within SeaBOS companies have revealed the complexity of antibiotics use in aquaculture with differing international, national, and regional legislative requirements along with multiple different “codes of conduct” and “farming standards” already in existence.

During the 2021 meeting, SeaBOS members agreed to an Antibiotics Stewardship Roadmap, form a SeaBOS Antibiotics Code of Conduct by October 2022; surveys of operations, a workshop in early 2022, and that there would be zero use of specific antibiotics (HPCIAs and CIAs*) in aquaculture operations unless there are national jurisdictional or region-specific regulations already in place permitting that to occur. Science-based alternatives (e.g. vaccines) will be developed to replace those antibiotics, including through collaborations with relevant experts and governments.

Explicit emissions goals. While the last year’s agreement to establish science-based greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goals by October 2021 was not fully met, nine out of the ten companies have already set their own emissions reductions targets. Members agreed that by May 2022 they would all have GHG emissions reduction goals that align with the aim of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to limit global warming to well below 2, and preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Since 2018, SeaBOS companies have achieved an estimated 131,117 tons of absolute CO2-e reductions.

Working with governments. The critical role of sustainable seafood in human health and nutrition, and the opportunity to mitigate climate change impacts through innovative approaches in the seafood sector, are both key elements for SeaBOS inputs to the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit and the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26). Members emphasized the importance of industry-policy-science collaboration to have lasting positive impacts on sustainability and ocean health and ensure regulatory measures at a global level were supporting positive change.  

Reducing ocean plastics. SeaBOS committed in 2016 to reduce the use of plastics in seafood operations, and encourage global efforts to reduce plastic pollution. Multiple members participated in the 2021 international coastal cleanup program and plan to extend that amongst members and their subsidiaries as a mechanism to raise awareness and understanding of the challenge. 

SeaBOS companies represent over 10% of the world’s seafood production and have more than 600 subsidiary companies. SeaBOS members include ten of the largest seafood companies in the world: Maruha Nichiro Corporation, Nissui, Thai Union, Mowi, Dongwon Industries, Cermaq, Cargill Aqua Nutrition, Nutreco/Skretting, CP Foods, and Kyokuyo.