17 January 2017
Roy Palmer on Mexico, Rotterdam, AISP and Soccer
What do you do?
I’m heavily involved in the seafood industry and have been since 1972. I do a number of different aspects; I’ve got my own family company involved in training and consultancy. But for the last few years my main emphasis has been on establishing the Association ofInternational Seafood Professionals, which is a global seafood association community. And Aquaculture without Frontiers, which is a charity, based in the USA, Australia and now Latin America.
How when and where did you first get started in seafood?
Well that is an interesting story. I was born in the U.K. and my working life in the U.K. was based around accountancy and I was going to become an accountant. But then I got involved in a stainless steel company and through that with some friends we went out to dinner one night. I ate smoked rainbow trout for an entrée and from that got Salmonella typhimurium. I was in hospital for a month while they sorted out that particular problem. While I was in hospital I was close to an Australian guy who had been traveling around the world and got
ill. He started telling me about his travels to Australia and what Australia was like. So I got on the ten pound scheme to come to Australia and the first job I got was in the seafood industry. So I thought, how weird is this? One minute nearly dying from eating a fish, and the next minute you’re out there selling fish!
You do quite a bit of work as a consultant. Will you tell us about that work?
Basically that sort of started through my involvement in training. I got involved in a number of different industry and government initiatives when I was involved in import export and then in retailing. I eventually became the deputy chairman of two organizations. One was called SeaQual, which was about creating quality in the seafood industry. That led into the creation of the vocational training scheme here in Australia and I was invited to be involved as the main post harvest person. At that time, typically being an industry person in seafood, never gave a lot of credence to training. Assumed because I’d been in the industry for 30 odd years that I knew everything, went to a few meetings and realized it was far from the truth. And the light came on, so I got involved in training and became a trainer and I’m one of just I think a couple of people who have a seafood processing diploma. So I walk the walk and talk the talk. I won the initial Australian seafood-training award that was put out there. Then we started a Seafood Cooperative Research Center, which was organized through a big process. I was involved as a consultant through that process, my role was engaging the industry training and it was very successful. I possibly saw that as being sort of the highlight of my career as my legacy was going to be in that area. But that soon found a different doorway and did not last too long (laughs) so I got more involved in doing consultancy both locally and internationally. Now I have become quite busy in respect of helping countries increase their seafood consumption.
What exactly is AISP and how and when did it become established?
I guess this is one of the things that happens when you get out of running a day-to-day type activity. You realize some of the failures of the industry. The seafood industry is a very important industry and yet it isn’t very highly regarded by many sections. In fact, it’s taken us many years to get nutrition as an important aspect of United Nations interest. Seafood all around the world is a very disjointed type organization. There isn’t a global seafood industry association. And so the thought came to me that we could create this. But what’s important is making sure that it’s a door for everybody to come in and help improve. I think all we can do in life (because changes happen all the time today) is just be on a continual improvement path. So we want to try to take the Association of International Seafood Professionals along that pathway. We want to create global standards to make things easier for people. We want to help be a problem solver in many of these big issues around the world. And we want it to be an open door to all people, whether you are a small fish farmer in Bangladesh or a CEO of a large western company. Because I think the more that we can share and engage, the better our industry can become. We’ve now set off on that pathway, we have a very good interactive website and we’re on the journey now. We’re very keen to see how we can push this along. The other thing we’re keen to do is create an accreditation program for all people involved in our industry so that we can become professionals. Just like you can become a professional in accountancy or meetings business, why not in seafood? So that is one of our main goals as well.
Please tell us about the outcomes of your recent travels to Mexico?
I was very fortunate to be asked to give the plenary at the economic forum for Fisheries and aquaculture in Mexico City. This is an event held each year through Conapesca, which is the country's organization that controls fisheries and aquaculture. I've been working with Conapesca since 2013 to increase their Seafood consumption. Earlier this year they achieved the goal that they'd set to achieve in 5 years in Less Than 3 and they were quite excited about that. And this was confirmed at this meeting when Walmart, (who are the largest supermarket chain operating in Mexico), confirmed that they now have increased sales of some 16% across all their businesses in Seafood. And so they're now looking at Seafood in a different way. Hopefully we can build on that momentum. My role was to give a plenary talk about the global opportunities of Mexican seafood. Whilst I was there I invited them to Australia because our Association has an event happening here next May.
Hopefully we'll get the Mexicans engaged in that process and get them to come down to have some producer one on one with Australian producers. And then also to have them talk to a number of the buyers here about a number of opportunities 4 Mexican seafood. Then we had some private meetings with the government relevant to increasing the seafood consumption by making sure that this momentum that we've got going is going to increase. So we're now talking about a number of ideas that will help boost the business even further. So it was a very good, very long trip over to Mexico (laughs) even more complicated by various issues with travel. But it was an excellent outcome to the meeting. Plus I was able to communicate with our various involvements with Aquaculture Without Frontiers which going ahead in both Tamaulipas and Michoacán. Both states that need some help. And we also talked about the creation of an international rural aquaculture conference an event that would possibly be held towards the end of next year.
What of your recent travels to Rotterdam?
The reasons for the trip to Rotterdam was twofold: Firstly to give a talk about fishing from 2015 to 2030 at the World Ocean Council Conference. Secondly to speak to various people in Rotterdam about holding a potential global conference for our association in 2018. The first event the World Ocean Council Conference had about 240 people there. I was very passionate obviously as I am about most of the things I do about the role of fishing. Whilst it's always under pressure clearly there are still opportunities in fishing and we mustn't let go of that. But we do need to do a lot of work in cleaning up a lot of the failures and the problems that exist through illegal, unregulated, and unreported seafood. Now possibly even a bigger situation with subsidies. I also raised the issue about plastics and polystyrene and how we all need to work together to get rid of those out of our industry chain. So there are a lot of different activities going on there. We made some really good contacts as a result of that meeting. The World Ocean Council has a lot of different people involved in it besides fishing and aquaculture. In fact they found it difficult to attract the fishing and aquaculture people. But they certainly haven't found it difficult to attract the shipping Industries, the mining companies, the dredging companies, and all the other players who are stakeholders in the utilization of the ocean. So I think it's quite an important opportunity. On the front as Rotterdam as a future home for a global meeting, that was also a quite exciting and very exhausting day of looking around at all the venues. Rotterdam is the largest port in northern Europe specifically, possibly the whole of Europe as far as seafood is concerned. They have a very professional attitude toward doing business and it's quite a unique City. We’ve got some friends there that are going to establish a local committee. Hopefully we will see this as our first Global event in 2018.
Why is the idea of promoting global standards and accreditation within the industry so important?
It's very important because there's a lot of confusion about what people should do and what people shouldn't do. You have government regulations and then you have lots of private certification groups. You know every time that a company has to go through those hoops, the costs make it horrendous. And no one gets more money for his or her product as a result. This is all coming off their bottom lines. So if we could actually try and find a way forward. I think the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) and now the GSSI, which is the Global Seafood Sustainability Initiative, are both good moves in the right direction. So we're obviously supportive of those. But generally speaking, it always strikes me as a little bit odd that we can have a game like soccer that is allowed to have its own rules. It doesn't matter where you are in the world, when your born and you learn the rules of soccer; they're the same all over the world. Why is it we can't have the same rules and regulations relevant to things like aquaculture for example? It just seems strange that we do different things for different arrangements. For example, if you look at when you travel, you have electricity issues. We've all got to carry a number of different adaptors in order to plug into the local electricity scheme. If someone had gotten together at the early stage and you only needed that one simple process, it would have saved a fortune on adapters, electrical equipment, etcetera. But countries chose to go in different ways. If we can try and bring that back from a seafood industry perspective, and have one standard, it would save an enormous amount of money, it would save confusion and I'm sure the world would be a better place for that. Always looking for those simple solutions I guess in that respect. Of course simple solutions aren't always that simple, because it means people have to change and change is always a problem. Nevertheless we've got some goals to try and achieve in that regard.