Fishy Business

I’ve been in seafood for twenty years and it’s time to show love again for the “food” part, after some years of emphasizing the “sea”.

Here at Sustainability Incubator we are working for good food.  For three years it’s mostly been about connecting people and oceans better — inside supply chains, up to retailers, and out to local communities.  Now what’s on the plate for us is helping companies take up a clear strategy to face regulatory reforms.

Eight years ago I was still a restaurant owner and seller of fish myself.  I like to feed people amazing seafood when it comes down to it, and continue to look for new ways to pursue that golden thread.

Innovation is key, and that means finding ever-new ways to be inspired.  Last weekend I spent an afternoon in a derelict building.  Built in 1940, it has commercial zoning and a great location, also a cool Chinese roof with upturned corners.  Sitting there for hours talking and thinking out loud with two agents, it was a fun place to be, a mini slice of dense urban life in my otherwise suburban neighbourhood of East Honolulu.  The property is right behind a 7-11.  All the different types of people cross that corner – a man in hot pink stripes head to toe, comers and goers from a nerdy coffee shop next door and from the alley, stacked with walk up rentals.  I couldn’t help thinking I could sell a lot of poke.  It feels great to get inspired.  It’s a kind of renewal.

This year at Sustainability Incubator we are emphasizing touch and the taste of food.  Seafood should leave the best taste in your mouth.  If there are problems in production, you taste it.  Stress for example, you can taste stress in the food.  Back in British Columbia years ago we showed it to the market with supple sashimi made from live-caught sockeye salmon.  Fisher Fred Hawkshaw caught and kept his sockeye salmon alive until a customer was ready with an ice slurry.  He’d pump extra oxygen into the hold where the salmon were swimming.  They’d get sleepy, go dormant.  Fred’s family worked quickly and popped a gill, then cleaned the fish immaculately and guess what?  The salmon never went into rigor mortis.  It was a vibrant and delicious product with twice the shelf life, a high % of TLC and innovation.  You didn’t even need to know any of that.  Taste set it apart.

The Sustainability Incubator is an advisory firm helping seafood companies to advance sustainability and solve human rights challenges.

Lately there are tough matters to contend with like slavery and illegal fishing which don’t taste good.  Their severity is causing regulatory reform, and our goal is to help food companies to move forward with a clear strategy.  I work on these matters most days and what I think about them, on a personal level, is it’s a choice, maybe an attitude.  Rather than focus on any good guy/bad guy, high horse/underbelly, push/pull dichotomies, I am inspired by the beauty of the decision to act.  Absolutely I want to work with companies seeking to ensure their products are made by producers who are paid, not held captive, or forced through 20 hours a day on amphetamines and threatened with violence.  But it’s also about how the food is thought about.  It’s about caring for its taste.

The history of the abolition decision in the USA in 1865, and in the UK in 1833, is definitive and powerful.  It was an ethical choice made by free people to defend the spirit of freedom.  Like love, human dignity is a quest.  We take inspiration from it, and follow our nose.

Plus, we love to eat tasty seafood!

Eat it to love it.

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