By Stephane Vrignaud, NOAA Fisheries Representative to the EU
Last week was a record-breaker for Seafood Expo Global, the world’s largest seafood trade event. The exposition, held in Brussels, featured more than 1,700 companies from over 70 countries, including three U.S. regional pavilions that hosted more than 50 exhibitors. Ambassador Gardner attended the show on April 21, and talked with U.S. seafood operators about current and future trends in seafood trade flows.
Observing the large amounts of fish being traded during the show, I thought to myself: “How long will this continue?” “Do we have enough fish?” I’m not the only one wondering. On April 16, the Ambassador spoke at a two-day conference in Brussels on “The Atlantic: Our Shared Resource.” Listening to the first speaker, I found myself pondering how it could be that we know more about space than we do about our oceans.
About 40 years ago, we sent 12 astronauts on six different missions to the surface of the moon, 400,000 kilometers away. (Fun fact: the current NOAA Administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan was one of the first six women selected to join the NASA astronaut corps in 1978 and holds the distinction of being the first American woman to walk in space.) In 1960, two aquanauts dove below the surface in a submarine to the deepest part of the ocean in the Marianas Trench…only 11 kilometers deep.
The benefits of knowing more about ocean life should be pretty obvious: the more we know, the more we will be able to effectively protect and conserve ocean life and meet challenges such as climate change, food security and blue growth. That is precisely the message that was conveyed by all speakers at the conference, including Ambassador Gardner.
Knowing more about oceans goes hand-in-hand with eliminating bad practices that threaten their ecosystem. Illegal Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing is a global phenomenon, found in coastal and deep-sea waters. I was in Boston last month when the U.S. Presidential Task Force on IUU Fishing and Seafood Fraud, co-chaired by the Departments of Commerce and State, released its action plan. The plan identifies 15 recommendations that will strengthen enforcement; create and expand partnerships with state and local governments, industry, and non-governmental organizations; and create a risk-based traceability program to track seafood from harvest to entry into U.S. commerce. It also highlights ways in which the United States will work with our foreign partners to strengthen international ocean governance and enhance cooperation.
As the NOAA Fisheries Representative to the EU, I’m fully committed and excited to embark with our allies on a journey that will lead to healthier ecosystems, communities, and economies that are resilient in the face of change.
Related: Article by NOAA Administrator Sullivan on It’s High Time We Achieved JFK’s Other Moon Shot