Seafood in solidarity
In January 2021, I penned an op-ed piece about the future of events for IntraFish. I cringed at the thought of rereading it two-and-a-half years later, fearful that the in the midst of the pandemic I had downplayed the significance of in-person events. But I didn’t. Instead, I wrote: “Grounded at home, we scrambled to fill the void left by in-person events, replacing them with virtual. Data was shared. Ideas were exchanged. Yet, without physical interaction, socializing and networking were severely lacking, especially for an industry such as ours that’s built on relationships and trust. By the end of 2020, we were engulfed in a fog of indistinction, struggling to distinguish one online experience from the other.”
Earlier this month, the Global Seafood Alliance held its first full-fledged event, the Responsible Seafood Summit (formerly GOAL), in four years. Though last year’s event in Seattle was a success, it was a truncated affair. This year, we went all out with a three-day program, nine industry field trips and four networking activities for almost 350 guests – in a place where we had never held an event (Atlantic Canada). Our co-hosts, the Atlantic Canada Fish Farmers Association (with support from the Province of New Brunswick and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency), rolled out the red carpet, and it showed.
There were moments at the event in Saint John that could not be replicated online. The theme of this year’s Responsible Seafood Summit was simply “unity,” as in harmony between aquaculture and wild-capture fisheries. Initially, it felt cliché. Then, it happened. Speakers rallied around the theme and told stories about how they’ve stuck their necks out within their communications to defend the “opposition.” Wild salmon people touted farmed salmon. Farmed salmon people touted wild salmon. It was refreshing. The humility expressed by speakers was also refreshing. Getting on stage to talk about the good and the bad and the hits and the misses over your career is not easy. They delivered.
Personally, my favorite moment came when the six finalists of the 11th annual Responsible Seafood Innovation Awards – five of which were able to join us in Saint John, one from as far away as New Zealand – bonded after presenting during an afternoon awards ceremony. The idea of the competition is to recognize entrepreneurs finding new solution to the challenges facing seafood. But for them to establish a connection and share a meal together – all very spontaneous – was a rewarding moment as an event organizer.
The overall experience reinforced the power of personal connections and that seafood’s enormous potential will be attained much faster if the industry not only stands together but also stands up for each other.
Itching for some in-person connection? Sign up to be notified with more information about the 2024 Responsible Seafood Summit in St. Andrews, Scotland next October!
Manager of Communications & Events
Global Seafood Alliance