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The 9 winners of the Ocean Awards 2017

The 9 winners of the Ocean Awards 2017

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Responsible Business Award: The Industry Group Agreement to Cod Fishery in the Northern Part of the North-East Atlantic

Photographed by Rama Knight

The Responsible Business Award recognises the company or group of companies that have done the most to ensure that their business operations are not undertaken at the expense of the marine environment. Nominees for the Responsible Business Award must have undertaken activities or commitments that will have a positive impact on the health of the marine environment, or have seen another significant milestone towards that goal. This activity or commitment must have been undertaken primarily to benefit the ocean, rather than the company’s bottom line.

As global warming increases, the gradual retreat of the polar ice cap has enabled industrial trawlers from Russia and Norway to work in ever more northerly waters, so threatening what was one of the last pristine marine environments.

Last May an international group of trade associations, unions, processors, manufacturers and retailers struck a deal that promised to protect a part of the Arctic Ocean from industrial fishing for Atlantic cod. It undertook “not to expand activities with trawl gear into those areas where regular fishing has not taken place before”, in a stretch of the Arctic that extends north from the Norwegian and Barents seas around the islands of Svalbard in Norway to the North Pole, encompassing both Norwegian and international waters. Anyone fishing in these waters cannot sell their catch to the signatories to the agreement, which includes not just Russian harvesting sector represented by the Union of Fish Industry in the North, NOREBO Group, Eurofish Group and Archangelsk Trawl Fleet fishing operator and Fiskebåt (the Norwegian Association of Owners of Fishing Vessels, which represents 90 per cent of Norway’s ocean-going fishing fleet), but also frozen food producers such as Birds Eye, Findus, Iglo and Young’s Seafood; the Danish company Espersen (which is Europe’s largest processor of frozen fish); McDonald’s; Icelandic Seachill, a leading supplier of chilled fish to the UK retail market; and the British supermarket chains Asda, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco.

Among those who worked on the agreement is Alex Olsen, head of sustainability at Espersen, which he joined in 2007 from McDonald’s Europe, where he pioneered the company’s Agricultural Assurance Programme. A Danish national holding masters degrees in both food science and environmental management as well as serving on the Marine Stewardship Council’s technical advisory board, Olsen is enabling Espersen, “which has always had a strong commitment to sustainability... to align and focus our efforts on the areas where we can have the most impact”.

“Changing environmental conditions have led to a re-evaluation of our fisheries,” he has said. “Strategies have been introduced to prove that the administration of fisheries meets specific standards and requirements, and good practice through innovation and research has helped us respond to the multiple sustainability issues at hand. In short: our industry is evolving.”

Which is just as well because fish consumption per capita has almost doubled over the past half century. Fisheries and aquaculture now support an estimated 10 to 12 per cent of the world’s population, 54 million of them fishers and fish farmers, the rest employed in packaging, processing and other aspects of the supply chain.

Highly Commended: Six Sense Laamu, Maldives

Launched in 1995, the Bangkok-based hotel brand Six Senses aspires to gold standard levels of “sustainability and obligation to the environment”. It also champions marine conservation, a commitment evident at its hotel in the Maldives, the only resort on Laamu Atoll. It has a partnership with the local charity Manta Trust and a full-time sustainability officer on its staff. It has established a coral farm and donated $100,000 to the Maldivian Grouper Project, which aims to establish a local healthy grouper fishery and set up a marine protected area in Laamu Atoll.

In 2016 the hotel also held its first Save the Sea Turtles festival in collaboration with the South Central Division of the Maldives Police Service, which drew 600 participants, who created a huge turtle-shaped installation of discarded plastic waste that they had collected on local beaches.

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