Log Lunch with Allison Cross Carter: Fishery Sustainability at the World Wildlife Fund

Log Lunch returned from Spring Break with a talk by Allison Cross Carter, who leads a team at WWF (World Wildlife Fund) dedicated to solving some of the world’s biggest conservation challenges for wild-caught fish and marine wildlife. She has helped over 50 fisheries on six continents engage in efforts to identify and address barriers to meeting the best global fishing practices that will ensure healthy fish stocks, minimize ecosystem impacts, and implement effective fishery management systems. She has specific expertise in using the leverage of the private sector to incentivize wild-capture fisheries to improve their environmental performance and supports the fishery sustainability efforts of leading US seafood buyers including Walmart, Sysco, Kroger, Costco, and Royal Caribbean.

Carter focused her talk around the relationship between oceans and global social systems, emphasizing that “healthy oceans are essential to global peace, conflict, and security.” Fisheries play a big part in that relationship and can have an outsized impact on how well our oceans can thrive. While 67% of fish stocks around the world are at healthy levels, the remaining 33% is being heavily overfished. This overfishing is the cause of mulitple other issues such as illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, a 70% decline in marine species, the loss 50% of the worlds mangroves and coral reefs, and human trafficking taking place at sea in unsuperivsed waters. All of these issues are playing out before we start to see the impacts of climate change; that is to say, as global population rises, fisheries will need to meet the increased demand for fish as a food source under changing conditions. 

As weather cycles and ocean temperatures shift due to climate change, the productivity and distribution of fish populations are going to be heavily impacted. By 2030, 23% of fish stocks will move into different territorial waters as a result of changing climatic and oceanic patterns. This shift which will likely lead to conflict and political instability as countries adapt and attempt to reconcile these changes. Northern Europe has already started to deal with such consequences of climate change; the mackerel fish has migrated northward from its original breeding and living waters in recent decades, leading to the shared agreement among European countries concerning fishing restrictions and privileges to no longer be viable. The EU has been engaged in a political conflict over this shift for the last ten years, an example of what is to come should governments take no action in preventing overfishing and mitigating climate change. 

So what can be done? Carter’s team is working actively with companies like Walmart, Costco, the Royal Caribbean, and fisheries alike to address this question. If we can manage our fisheries well using the tools that we have, current fish harvest has the potential to be 13% higher than it is right now. Some of these improvement include
a healthy target stock, minimizing fisheries’ impact on ecosystems, promoting effective fishery management system, recognizing community interests, respecting fundamental human rights, securing food and livelihoods within communities, and accounting for full costs and benefits of fishing. Carter’s team at WWF is developing a new data platform that can help predict and prevent fish insecurity as well as climate change impacts on certain communities. This data can help WWF identify which countries and fisheries need to build resilience and connect them with the tools to do that work. At the end of the day, fish stock is responsible for the nutrition and protein of 3.3 billion people on Earth, a food source that we have to protect in the coming decades and an essential factor to the survival of our global community. 

This week’s Log Lunch-goers enjoyed a three-dip-day: beet and lentil dip, a spinach artichoke dip, and a harissa roasted carrot dip with fresh bread to soak it up. For dessert, a cardamom, lime, white bean cake. Mighty Foods Farm, where the Log Lunch Crew gets their veggies from, now has spring veggies! Come back next week for radishes.

Log Lunch is a CES program hosted every Friday at noon. During Log Lunch, a vegetarian meal prepared by Williams students is served, followed by a talk on an environmental topic. Speakers are drawn from both the student body and faculty of Williams, as well as from local, national, and international organizations. Learn more here.