SUSTAINABILITY MONTHLY MEET UP – SOURCING SEAFOOD RESPONSIBLY: 9TH MAY 2023
By Hanna Jepps
The Future Green team with James Hu and King Mak
As guests step out of the elevator on the 7th floor, we are greeted by the warm hospitality and relaxing atmosphere that is the luxurious restaurant SOMM, based in Landmark Mandarin Oriental.
With the restaurant sculpted and shaped like a wine barrel and its lavish sommelier bar counter-top in the centre, it was truly a treat to have such a beautiful restaurant host us and our members for our Monthly Meetup. As more guests arrived, the networking and chattering began and the atmosphere became lively with ideas being exchanged across the restaurant. With the topic centering on ‘Sourcing Seafood Responsibly’, we knew this would be a popular one and in the end, we had a full house! It was a fantastic event that was packed with a wealth of information from the very best in the food industry.
OUR OCEAN IS IN MAJOR TROUBLE
We first began with our CEO, Heidi Yu Spurrell giving us an overview of the topic in discussion. We dove right into the nitty gritty and harsh realities of what our oceans are facing right now.
Our oceans are on the edge of an irreversible environmental disaster. The increasing over-consumption of seafood is hammering the oceans’ ecosystems with our destructive fishing methods. Because of this, overfishing for commercial purposes has raged on for decades, leading to a staggering depletion of fish stocks. As mentioned in the 2020 report by United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO 2018), ‘one-third of all fish stocks are being depleted faster than they can replenish. Another 60% of stocks are fished at the maximum sustainable level, leaving only 7% of fish stocks that are underfished’.
To make matters worse, modern slavery has been identified in our fishing industries. Forced labour and human trafficking are major humanitarian problems and have been connected towards Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing (IUU fishing). This further hampers the goal to ensure the right for a fair working environment, as well as the SDG’s commitment to sourcing seafood responsibly.
STRIVING FOR CHANGE!
But change is happening! There are industries that are striving for change and are on the right path towards sustainably sourcing their seafood! We were fortunate enough to have had ‘Waves Pacific’ and ‘Lyfegreen’ as our food sponsors, with both companies following the sustainable journey and detaching themselves from the damaging commercial methods still used today in sourcing or farming food products.
We were also spoiled and incredibly lucky to have gotten ‘La Cabane’ and ‘Taboocha’ as our drink sponsors. Following a natural wine movement, La Cabane prides itself in sourcing out biodynamic wine for people to enjoy. For Taboocha, they follow a sustainable path in sourcing organic & fair trade ingredients, glass recycling and a wide array of other sustainable practices.
Even more, we had guest speaker Matt Friedman, the CEO of The Mekong Club, who works to empower businesses to bring about sustainable practices against modern slavery, including in the Food & Beverage industry. We also had guest speaker Louie Okamoto from Umito Partners, a company that co-design innovative solutions with fishery communities to be more sustainable in Japan.
With these amazing sponsors and speakers, guests were able to indulge in exquisite mouth-watering seafood nibbles, well-crafted wine and kombucha whilst knowing what these industries have been doing in order to be as sustainable as possible. It’s a win-win!
La Cabane’s Co-Founder Cristobal Hunees giving an overview of the wine selection & a delicious sustainably sourced Barramundi fish dish
FIGHT BACK AGAINST MODERN SLAVERY
Our first guest speaker, Matt Friedman, CEO from The Mekong Club, delivered his powerful presentation on the prevalent issue of modern slavery in our fishing industries. Before delving into the statistics, an interactive simulation exercise was conducted where everyone (apart from myself as I was busy taking notes during the event!) was given a bolt and was asked to take the nut on and off for an unknown duration of time. Guests were also informed to do nothing but focus on the task on-hand. As time persisted, some struggled, coughed, dropped, sighed, laughed- all basic human emotions and rights, but Matt would come over to them and criticise them.
Sounds harsh? Well that’s the reality for modern slaves who work in sweatshops. This exercise was a way for us to understand the horrific conditions placed on modern slaves who are stuck in the endless cycle of forced labour.
Then the statistics came and it was shocking. With over 50 million modern slaves today, there are potential touchpoints in the F&B industries. For instance, certain products, such as sugar cane have been identified and linked towards modern slavery. Not just the products themselves but also the terrible working conditions endured by these fishermen keeps continuing when suppliers buy from these fisheries.
A scary realisation but Matt’s wonderful organisation are here to educate and fight back against this atrocious phenomenon. By simply assessing your company and suppliers by asking the necessary questions, your business can be addressing modern slavery vulnerabilities.
Interactive Simulation Exercise with the bolts & guest speaker Matt Friedman presenting
LET’S GO GLOBAL
The mic (virtually) was then handed over to Louie Okamoto from Umito Partners, dropping in from Japan remotely. A presentation bringing in a wealth of knowledge and information, this was truly insightful and beneficial for industries who source their seafood from Japan.
As guests listened to this intriguing presentation, Louie showed the urgent need of importance to sustainably source our seafood. Mainly focusing on Japan, it became abundantly clear that our fishing stocks are depleting at a fast-rate with hardly any fish species going through proper stock assessments. In fact, as Louie mentioned, with Japan consuming around 400 different types of fishes, only 42 species have been assessed.
However, Umito Partners envisions a sustainable and equitable ocean economy with fishing communities. They’ve been busy with various projects around Japan, such as in the Chiba prefecture where they’re working with the Funabashi City Fisheries Cooperative Association in improving the sustainability practices of their sea bass fishery. With such dedication and passion seen from Louie, it’s inspiring to see how Umito Partners is making mindset changes in a country that prides itself with its traditional seafood delicacies.
Louie Okamoto from Umito Partners presenting remotely
QUESTIONS AND NETWORKING!
Afterwards came the Q&A session and it was great to see how fascinated guests were and asking in-depth questions. After this, guests continued their networking with business cards being swapped with smiles and laughter. It was truly a pleasure for us all to have attended this month’s monthly meet-up and to have received so much knowledge from the best.
This meetup could not have gone ahead without our lovely supporter InvestHK and sponsor Fresh Accounting, food sponsors (Waves Pacific LTD and Lyfegreen), drink sponsors (La Cabane and Taboocha) and SOMM hosting us and our members. Another massive shout-out to our 2 guest speakers, Louie Okamoto from Umito Partners and Matt Friedman from The Mekong Club.
Let the networking begin!
Want to join our community of change makers? Get in touch to learn more about our Membership Programme at email@example.com
Want to get in touch with the amazing Mekong Club/ Umito Partners? We got you covered:
The Mekong Club: firstname.lastname@example.org (They’re also coordinating a pro bono support package and seeking 15 organisations for training/consulting- its a first come first served basis so grab it whilst you can!)
Umito Partners: email@example.com
FAO. 2018. “The state of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2018- Meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.” The State of the World. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.
—–, 2020. The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2020: Sustainability in Action. Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.
Interested in more?
6 steps to turning messy ideas into concrete next steps with The British Chamber of Commerce3rd November
From Healthy Kids Menu to Asian-Inspired Delights: SpiceBox Organics Revamps Catering Services, Championing Sustainability and Clean Eating in Hong Kong12th October