The landscape of the seafood industry has changed drastically over the last thirty years. Advancements in gear technology allow fishermen to harvest more efficiently. Changes in laws and regulations ensure that fish and shellfish populations can maintain healthy levels. The way companies do business regarding seafood purchasing has shifted focus to sustainability. The Audubon Nature Institute (ANI) helps consumers navigate these changes with a tool called G.U.L.F or Gulf United for Lasting Fisheries. The Gulf of Mexico Alliance recently partnered with ANI to host our Business Advisory Council meeting where we learned about the G.U.L.F. program. We thought you’d find this a valuable resource to share with your stakeholders.
Locally sourced seafood, environmental sustainability, and sustainable seafood were all listed in the National Restaurant Association’s top 10 trends for 2016. Large retailers have implemented stringent sustainability policies that apply to their products. As a result, the demand for verified sustainable seafood is growing, either through certification or active fishery improvement projects. According to a recent study by the International Institute for Sustainable Development, certified sustainable seafood increased from less than 1% of total global production in 2013 to 14% in 2015.
As the business of doing seafood has changed over the last few decades, so has the way consumers make decisions to purchase seafood. With zoos and aquariums being considered authorities on environmental issues, consumers are looking to these institutions for information and guidance on sustainable seafood purchasing. To educate the public, and to help Gulf fisheries meet the market demand for verified sustainable seafood, the Audubon Nature Institute founded G.U.L.F. in 2012.
G.U.L.F.’s mission is to “secure a vibrant future for Gulf of Mexico seafood.” They do this through a three-pronged approach designed to ensure the marine resources of the Gulf of Mexico are fished responsibly while recognizing the needs of the people who depend on this resource for their livelihood. The G.U.L.F. Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM) Certification verifies the rigorous state and federal management guidelines that govern Gulf of Mexico fisheries.
The G.U.L.F. RFM Certification is based on the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ internationally adopted principles in the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and the Ecolabelling Guidelines for Fish and Fishery Products. When a fishery passes the certification process, consumers can rest assured it is a responsibly managed fishery, dedicated to sustainability.
Fishery Improvement Projects (also called Marine Advancement Plans) are an alternative to certification for fisheries who want to demonstrate a dedication to sustainability and a move toward positive change, but may not have the resources to undergo formal certification. Lastly, ANI’s outreach and education focus is on engaging the public and encouraging the support of local fisheries. They accomplish this through presence at festivals, exhibits at Audubon Aquarium of the Americas and Audubon Zoo, and “edible outreach” with their 29 restaurant partners in Louisiana.
Contributed by Ashford Rosenberg, the Outreach Manager for the Audubon Nature Institute. For more information about G.U.L.F. and their projects, visit www.AudubonGULF.org.