North Carolina Sea Grant

May 14, 2015 |

By Nichola Clark and Carolyn Doherty

Posted May 14, 2015

Nichola Clark is a Knauss Fellow serving in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the Office of Law Enforcement. Carolyn Doherty is a Knauss Fellow serving in the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs in the Office of Marine Conservation. This piece has been written in their personal capacities.

View of the exhibition floor at the expo

The Seafood Expo was held at the Boston Convention Center. Photo by Carolyn Doherty

Two of North Carolina Sea Grant’s current Dean John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellows — Nichola Clark and Carolyn Doherty — attended the Seafood Expo North America & Seafood Processing North America this year.

More than 20,000 buyers and suppliers of all things seafood, from products to equipment and services — plus Nichola and Carolyn — were under one roof at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center for three days this March. Here are five main things they saw:

1. Task Force Rollout

The recent — and historic — work of the Presidential Task Force on Combating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing and Seafood Fraud, known as Task Force, was highlighted at the Seafood Expo’s conference.

The newly published Task Force action plan was rolled out by a panel of experts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Department of State, the two agency co-chairs of the Task Force, as well as representatives from the National Fisheries Institute, Bumble Bee Seafood and the World Wildlife Fund. The panel provided a forum for reviewing the action plan, and explored some details of the priority actions and timelines described in the action plan.

The rollout received extensive global media coverage and brought a much-needed spotlight to the issues of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and seafood fraud. As our two offices continue their co-chairmanship of the ongoing work of the Task Force, we’re looking forward to what the Task Force will accomplish over the next 18 months.

2. The Floor

A row of polar bear statues wearing scarves.

A talking polar bear was among the attractions at the Seafood Expo. Photo by Carolyn Doherty

The floor of the seafood expo was massive — so massive, in fact, that it had its own smartphone app to help tech-savvy folks navigate the seemingly infinite rows of booths and displays.

As we walked the 220,130 square feet of exhibit space, we saw many of the things that one might expect at a seafood expo — namely lots and lots of delicious seafood samples.

But, there also were a number of other products that brought casual passersby to near sensory-overload status. Tuna-filleting demonstrations, the newest freezing technologies, shrimp samples (yes, please!), Indonesia’s Ministry of Marine Affairs, mascots in full catfish costume, and a giant, talking polar bear.

3. Seeing Friendly Faces

Three people in front of NC Seafood posters at Seafood Expo.

Carolyn Doherty, John Aydlett and Nichola Clark met at the Seafood Expo. Courtesy Nichola Clark

It’s always nice to see a friendly face in a crowd — especially a crowd of 20,680 people — so we were very glad to run into one of our fellow North Carolinians, John Aydlett. John, seafood marketing specialist, was manning the North Carolina booth when we visited and gave us a great introduction to some of the programs that the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is working on.

4. Perspectives on Seafood Traceability

The traceability program proposed in the Task Force recommendations has received a great deal of public attention. Indeed, traceability is a very popular topic of discussion in the fishing industry. It is perhaps not so surprising that there were a number of seminars on the subject at the Expo.

We attended some of these discussions at the Seafood Expo and found it incredibly interesting and valuable to hear about traceability from the industry perspective.

Some speakers looked at traceability more theoretically; others assessed the potential impediments to implementing traceability programs. Some major seafood corporations talked about the steps they’re taking to improve their own traceability, while other, more small-scale companies talked about their successful “bait to plate” programs.

5. Proximity to the Food Show

In case you got tired of the endless samples of seafood, a food show was conveniently located in the adjoining conference hall. And it just so happened that our badges for the Seafood Expo North America also allowed us entrance into the food show.

What luck. Access to free samples of all kinds of delicious pastas, meats, cheeses, gelato, cheesecake and tea made us extremely happy conference attendees.

Needless to say, we learned so much from the experience and were very glad to have had the opportunity to attend the Seafood Expo North America this year.

Thank you, North Carolina Sea Grant!

Signing off,

Carolyn and Nichola

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