World Wildlife Fund and Royal Caribbean partner on sustainable seafood

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Reams of scientific white papers, countless news reports and investigations and volume upon volume of books have been written about the abuses of this planet’s oceans and the creatures that live there.

While oceans are home to at least a million known plants and species, it’s estimated that approximately 90 percent of the world’s fisheries have been pushed to or beyond their biological limits. The use of unsustainable fishing methods and overfishing of our current resources have largely contributed to the decline of global fisheries. Pollution, poorly planned development, and the effects of climate change have also contributed to the degradation of the underwater environment.

In January 2016, Royal Caribbean entered a five-year partnership with World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and set ambitious goals to do something about it, including strengthening RCL’s sustainable seafood supply chain strategy through 2020. While the work is complex, the ultimate intent of that initiative is simple:

RCL guests will have the opportunity to support sustainable seafood onboard by making responsible dining choices.

To make that choice easier for our guests, one of RCL’s goals is to obtain Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) “chain of custody” certification for its global fleet, affirming that both wild-caught and farmed seafood that is served as certified is coming from sources traceable all the way back to a  sustainable fishery or responsible farm.

“Royal Caribbean is the first cruise line company to commit to reaching chain of custody certification,” says Nicole Condon, WWF seafood engagement program officer. “Reaching this goal would be an industry-leading position and a great accomplishment for Royal Caribbean.”

And it’s one made by RCL knowing full well that it’s going to complicate seafood sourcing in a big way.

“We have moving hotels essentially,” says Stephanie DeMars, RCL corporate responsibility specialist. “Availability of sourcing enough volume of certified MSC or ASC product will be a challenge in certain regions. Since our ships sail all around the globe, we need to source product and find distribution channels within every region, and a concern will be sourcing in places that are not as far advanced as other nations in terms of sustainability.”

“So finding certified fisheries and aquaculture farms that are local so you don’t have to transport product across the globe, that’s a big challenge for us,” DeMars explains, “It isn’t going to be easy, but RCL wants to do the right thing for our customers and support organizations working to conserve the long term viability of global fish stocks.”

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reports that fully half of all fish for human consumption is now provided by farming.

“Royal Caribbean has committed to responsibly sourcing both its wild-caught and farmed seafood products. Seafood farming can be associated with mangrove destruction, water pollution, and illegal fishing and labor practices, Condon says. “The ASC certification ensures that the farmed seafood is produced in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.”

In one respect, RCL committed to go even further than certification of the seafood it buys and serves – the outright elimination from its supply chain of endangered species. Cited as one example are sharks and a growing demand for shark fin, used in expensive Asian soups for alleged health effects. The latest research shows that as many as 100 million sharks of several species may be killed each year, often just for their fins.

After conferring again in June to refine RCL’s sustainability goals for 2020, the cruiseline specifically committed to:

  • Responsibly source 90 percent of its global wild-caught seafood by volume from MSC-certified sustainable fisheries, fisheries in full assessment for MSC certification, comprehensive Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs) and/or tuna products sourced from International Seafood Sustainability Association (ISSA) member companies. At least 65 percent of the total volume must be from sources already certified by MSC.
  • In North America and Europe operations, responsibly source 75 percent of its farmed seafood by volume from ASC-certified farms, farms in full assessment for ASC certification and/or comprehensive aquaculture improvement projects.

RCL’s size and good name both inside and out of the industry, as well as its support for some of WWF’s global fisheries improvement projects, is also expected to give a big boost to seafood sustainability efforts.

“Royal Caribbean’s global scale can have a positive influence in moving their seafood supply chains to greater sustainability,” Condon says. “And it’s our hope that Royal Caribbean’s commitments will send a strong signal throughout their seafood supply chains globally that there is a growing demand for MSC and ASC-certified seafood.”

A full list of Royal Caribbean’s 2020 Sustainability Goals is available here. In addition, RCL has reaffirmed its corporate sustainability goals, including waste and recycling, wastewater, and water bunkering through 2020.