Working together to support sustainable fisheries – it takes a Nation: Interview with John Fallon of Gulf United for Lasting Fisheries (G.U.L.F.)
The effort to create a sustainable fishing industry is represented on a multitude of scales, locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. Organizations around the globe are working tirelessly to ensure we sustain not only the fish we love to consume, but numerous jobs the industry generates. Good Catch works in tandem with these organizations, building relationships to make a larger impact and bigger change. Gulf United for Lasting Fisheries (G.U.L.F), a program of the Audubon Nature Institute in New Orleans, Louisiana is one of the many organizations working to make positive change in the sustainable fisheries world. Meet G.U.L.F’s Assistant Director, John Fallon, for a better look at what is happening in the Gulf of Mexico’s fisheries.
When did G.U.L.F. begin and what was the impetus behind its conception?
“G.U.L.F. officially formed in August of 2012, but the groundwork was laid for nearly a year before that. The Audubon Aquarium Conservation Committee, a group of employees who sought to create more conservation minded initiatives, saw the need for Audubon to take a larger role in the sustainability of our local Gulf of Mexico ecosystem. The Gulf seafood industry is vitally important to the economy and culture of our region, so we felt it was important to play a role in safeguarding it for future generations.”
Who does G.U.L.F. work with?
“We work with all members of the supply chain, from fishermen to the consumer. With fishermen and processors, we are really focused on making sure they are informed as to what is happening in their fishery. We also feel that their experiences are crucial to getting an understanding of the state of our fisheries, so we strive to include their input as much as possible in our work.
On the consumer side, we do education and outreach, mostly through our Chef Council and Restaurant Partnership program. We currently have a 10 member council of local chefs who help us get the word out about why supporting our local fisheries is important. With their help, we have developed a partnership program that currently has 24 Louisiana restaurants, all of which work with us to educate their staffs and patrons about sustainable Gulf seafood.
Last, but not least, we work with the state fisheries management agencies across the Gulf Coast. These agencies are the ones truly responsible for the success of a fishery, and they do great work that often gets overlooked.”
What do you encourage chefs and consumers to consider when it comes to Gulf seafood products after the oil spill?
“When we do a restaurant training, one of the questions we always hear that guests still ask is whether or not the seafood is safe to eat. Yes! You would not be seeing it in a restaurant or grocery store if it was not safe to eat. We have some of the most heavily tested seafood down here in the Gulf to ensure it is safe for human consumption.”
How do you work with other sustainable fishery organizations to ultimately reach your goal of conservation?
“In our area, we work very closely with Sea Grant. They have an incredible amount of experience when it comes to working with the fishing communities of the Gulf, and have helped us make connections we never would have made on our own. In return, we try to bring more attention to the positive work they’ve been doing for years, most of which is not well known outside of the fishing industry.
On a national scale, we keep in close contact with several other groups and organizations, like Fish Choice, to provide accurate information on what is happening with Gulf seafood.
As an aquarium, we also have strong ties to other AZA facilities and programs, like, for example, Good Catch! Fun fact: Good Catch was one of the programs that provided a lot of very helpful feedback when we first started building G.U.L.F.”
What do you think about the future of sustainable fisheries?
“I think it is definitely hopeful. If you look at the restaurant industry, where 70% of seafood is consumed, sustainable and local foods have been top 10 trends for the last several years.
With that being said, we do have a long way to go, especially when it comes to the public understanding the state of U.S. fisheries and the seafood industry in general. We have really well managed fisheries in this country, which means buying U.S. seafood is buying sustainable seafood. Supporting your local fishing industry and spreading the word on what a good job we’ve done in this country with our fisheries is the next step on the sustainable seafood journey.”
What’s next for G.U.L.F.?
“We continue to develop a sustainability certification for Gulf of Mexico fisheries to make them standout in the marketplace. We anticipate that process to be complete by June of this year.
We are also working with our shrimp industry skimmer fleet to spread the word on tow time compliance and possible changes to TED regulations that could be coming down in 2016/17.
From the chef and consumer side, we have some fun events planned for this summer. Don’t want to say much before we announce, but here is a glimpse of our last event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zzdxQHwRQtI.
Anything else you want to add?
Laissez les bon temps rouler! (Let the good times roll!)