For all seafood to be legal, traceable and biologically sustainable: The vision of the Hong Kong Sustainable Seafood Coalition
When it comes to seafood, how do we know if it is sustainable? The answer might be more complex than you might think. Terms such as “sustainably sourced” and “responsible farmed” are often used without a common set of minimum criteria, leading to confusion amongst consumers, buyers and sellers alike.
However, what is easy to understand is legality.
Illegal, unregulated or unreported (IUU) is when a fishing activity occurs either as an expressly illegal activity or, at a minimum, an activity undertaken with little regard for applicable regulations. $23 billion annually (The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations). It directly undermines government efforts to manage fish stocks.
In May 2017, ADM Capital Foundation and Teng Hoi Conservation Organisation organised a Symposium to engage the local seafood industry, specifically what can be done to overcome and address concerns of IUU fishing.
Over 100 participants attended, representing supermarkets, hotels, restaurants, catering services, distributors, wholesalers and producers from across Hong Kong.
The outcome was broad agreement to develop Voluntary Codes of Conduct to help guide responsible seafood procurement across Hong Kong’s seafood industry.
In January 2018, the Hong Kong Sustainable Seafood Coalition (HKSSC) hosted its first Member’s meeting. Through the course of 12 months, Members were guided to review and amend a set of Voluntary Codes of Conduct first developed first by the Sustainable Seafood Coalition (UK). These codes were finalised in February 2019, setting a minimum standard for sustainability and traceability criteria that is needed in order to make a responsibility claim. For example, in regards to traceability, Members will be looking to ensure they have clarity and certainty on:
- Who supplied the product,
- The origin or the product, and
- That it can be traced back to a legal source.
Given the nature and complexity of seafood supply chains, gaining full answers to these broad questions are far more complicated than one may think.
Members are supported by a Technical Advisor, who provides monthly tutorials on how to implement the Codes. Most recently, external facilitators presented on the legal risks of sourcing high-value species such as live reef fish like Grouper, and Abalone.
Membership is open to any business buying and selling seafood in Hong Kong and Macau. Join our efforts in working towards safe, legal and sustainable seafood for the Hong Kong market.
The HKSSC thanks the Sustainable Seafood Coalition (SSC) in the UK for their support and permission to adapt their Voluntary Codes of Conduct for the Hong Kong market. Established in 2011, members of the SSC now account for around 75 percent of retail seafood sales in the U.K.
Written by Julia Whitney, Secretariat The Hong Kong Sustainable Seafood Coalition