In the Pacific, three seafood companies using sustainable fishery practices to conserve the health of marine ecosystems and contribute to the local economy have received international recognition for their novel business models.
Three fishing companies – from Palau, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu – were shortlisted for the finals of the global Fish 2.0 business competition, which recognises businesses in the fishery sector that employ innovative and sustainable approaches to simplify supply chains, while increasing incomes for fishers. In Palau, Indigo Seafood has trained local people to use sustainable methods to farm high value products, such as grouper and giant clams. The company employs over 75 local people, in addition to working with 70 giant clam farmers. To increase growth rates and reduce pressure on wild-caught sources of fishmeal, such as sardines and other forage fish, Indigo Seafood has also developed protein-rich feeds from soy and other grains.
“Our goal at Indigo is building a sustainable aquaculture company to have a positive economic impact for the citizens of Palau, while protecting the pristine coral reef,” says James Sanderson, co-founder of Indigo Seafood. “Though we are still a small company, we have been positively impacting the community for several years. With our giant clam exports, we have brought thousands of dollars to local clam farmers and their families,” he adds. Since 2011, the company has collaborated with the Palau Aquaculture Cooperative Association (PACA) to provide their member farmers with seedlings to culture giant clams, which Indigo Seafood export to Asia, Europe and the US. With access to these profitable markets, Palauan clam farmers can earn around €4,816 per year according to PACA’s president, Bernice Ngikrelau.
Indigo Seafood has also recently deployed its first two rigid polyhedral AquapodsTM. These submerged cages, designed by American company InnovaSea, are lowered into deep water off-shore. The free floating cage is able to change location with the ocean’s currents, creating less stress on surrounding environments and lowering the risk of disease. Being located at least 1.6 km out at sea in deep water protects fish from air and marine predators, as well as rough weather on the ocean’s surface. Indigo Seafood employs local people to monitor the health and growth of grouper farmed in these cages, as well as to maintain the cages themselves. The fish grown in the AquapodsTM are not only for export to live seafood markets in China, Hong Kong and Tokyo, but also for local consumption.
In November 2017, Sanderson attended the Fish 2.0 Innovation Forum held at Stanford University as one of the competition finalists. He is enthusiastic about the potential of other businesses showcased at the event, “It was refreshing to meet so many industry leaders and entrepreneurs who are focused on sustainable fisheries and aquaculture. The competitors representing the Pacific Island communities were excellent in their ideas and presentations.”
Didds Fishing Company, a social enterprise based in the Solomon Islands – which was selected as one of the eight Fish 2.0 2017 winners – enables island communities to fish for premium bottom-water species off-shore to relieve pressure on in-shore fisheries. “Fishing is line-specific, fish-specific – we do not go all out with nets or other unsustainable methods,” explains Toata Molea, owner of Didds Fishing. “And because the men are fishing about 6 km off the reef, it relieves pressure on in-shore fisheries so reef fish are actually spawning and thriving without much pressure on [the reef],” Molea adds. The company provides boats, fuel and ice to fishing families in the community of Makwanu. Didds Fishing pays for the fish directly into the fishers’ accounts, which they can access at the local village store. The increased access to cash has boosted families’ capacity to send their children to school, as well as purchase food and clothing.
Shepherd Islands Organic Seafood, a company based in Vanuatu which farms organic sea cucumbers and sea urchins, was also shortlisted for the finals. “I feel blessed to be part of the Fish 2.0 2017 competition. It’s been an amazing opportunity. Through the competition I’ve become clearer in my vision for Shepherd Islands Organic Seafood and championing sustainable fishing practices,” says company owner, Obed Matariki. His company has developed a lucrative customer base among Chinese seafood distributors and pharmaceutical companies for its exported sea cucumbers and sea urchins and successfully diverted artisanal fisherman and turtle hunters into more sustainable livelihood activities.