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Seafood champion awards highlight creativity in sector. Diversified Communications and SeaWeb announced last week the winners of the 2019 Seafood Champion Awards, an outstanding group of seafood sustainability leaders who exemplify the creativity and commitment of seafood leaders around the world.

“Once again the Seafood Champion Awards bring together a collection of inspirational stories that exemplify the great work being done to make seafood more sustainable and more ethical,” said Liz Plizga, Group Vice President for Diversified Communications. “We want to recognize and thank all our Seafood Champion Awards Finalists for the important work they are doing. The 17 finalists show how companies, governments, non-profits and individuals are all having a positive impact on seafood across the globe.”

 This year’s winners represent change and progress at many different levels. From changing how a country perceives sustainable seafood to changing industry and supply chains, how governments regulate fisheries and enforce the law, and how individuals and communities support and benefit from sustainable fisheries.

Since 2006, the annual Seafood Champion Awards have recognized individuals and organizations for excellence in promoting environmentally responsible seafood. This year’s four winners—one in each of four Award categories—were announced on June 11 in front of a global audience at the SeaWeb Seafood Summit in Bangkok, Thailand in a ceremony that also honored the finalists.

The Seafood Champion Award for Leadership went to Wakao Hanaoka, founder and CEO of Seafood Legacy. With his strong passion for sustainable oceans, Wakao has been leading Japan’s sustainable seafood movement for more than 15 years. Since the establishment of Seafood Legacy in 2015, Wakao has focused on building Japan-centric solutions for seafood sustainability by addressing the importance of domestic, business-led initiatives that drive regulatory reforms. This approach is built upon the most important value in Japanese business culture: harmony. Wakao’s strong initiative, now combined with the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, is making seafood sustainability a new norm in Japan.

OceanMind is the 2019 Seafood Champion Award winner for Innovation.  Incubated at the Pew Charitable Trusts, OceanMind (OM) brings a unique approach to vessel monitoring, control, and surveillance (MCS), one that combines technological tools and law-enforcement-style capacity building to create a culture of compliance in the oversight of a country’s fishing fleet. A few years ago, OceanMind brought their innovative approach and their ability to build strong partnerships to pursue a program of work with the Royal Thai Government’s Department of Fisheries (DOF) to provide MCS support and to build capacity, as the government created agencies, processes and onboarded technology to gain control over their sizeable commercial fishing fleet.

OceanMind worked closely with the DOF, helping scientists to become compliance officers and learn how to use the tools and systems newly available to them.

In the Seafood Champion Award Vision category, Dr. Darian McBain won for her work over the last five years which has transformed Thai Union into a leader in sustainability not only in the seafood industry but rather, the food service industry as a whole, as noted in the 2018 Dow Jones Sustainability Index.  Through SeaChange, a comprehensive set of commitments and actions to ensure that Thai Union is operating sustainably, Darian is working at every level of the seafood industry – from vessels and manufacturing, to importers and retailers. Her work focuses on a range of sustainability challenges in the seafood industry: from human rights abuses, migrant and labour issues, to environmental and climate change threats. Darian also leads the company’s commitments and pledges on global platforms, such as the United Nations and World Economic Forum. Partnerships and collaboration have been given a strong focus to enable the SeaChange strategy.

Francisco Blaha was chosen as the winner of the Seafood Champion Award for Advocacy. A fisher, a scientist, fisheries inspector, ICT developer, and a communicator, Francisco brings a unique perspective and has the credibility of very different but complementary groups in fisheries. A believer in the “sanitising” power of data and an innovator in his approach to electronic Catch Documentation Schemes, his concepts were adopted by the WWF expert panel on legal and traceable fish products, FAO’s expert consultation of CDS and trough the publication of FAO Fisheries Technical Paper (TP619) Seafood traceability for fisheries compliance which he authored. He is an avid fisheries communicator, presenting technical information in plain language with an emphasis on sustainability, transparency, removal of subsidies, MCS, gender balance and labour rights for fishers and observers. Francisco has contributed to sustainable seafood most through his work in capacity building having trained hundreds of people in 50 countries on areas key to legality, safety and sustainability.

“We often measure progress in data, graphs and metrics, but the Seafood Champion Awards put faces and stories to the amazing progress achieved in sustainable seafood,” noted Meghan Jeans, SeaWeb Program Director with The Ocean Foundation.