One CEO’s Big Plan for Global Seafood Trade

Philips Foods

Steve Phillips recently won an international award for his sustainability efforts in Asia. Find out how his passion for saving crabs has turned into a global crusade.

Last month, the Seafood Choices Alliance selected Steve Phillips, president and CEO of Phillips Foods, Inc., as a 2011 winner of its sixth annual Seafood Champions Award.

Since the 1990s, Phillips has worked to establish a thriving blue swimming crab industry in Asia that is now on the path to sustainability. His work started when he realized crabs in the region were susceptible to overfishing, and that the fishing practices that harvest juvenile crabs and pregnant females are unsustainable.

RMGT spoke with Steve Phillips.

Why are you so passionate about sustainable seafood?

One of my grandfathers was a Chesapeake Bay fisherman and my other grandfather had a small seafood-processing factory, so I grew up understanding what fishermen were concerned about as well as what a manufacturer was concerned about.

We had so many varieties of seafood and it was so bountiful that I thought it was going to be here forever. But in my lifetime a lot of it has gone, as well as many of the fishermen, their livelihoods, and a whole lifestyle.

What have you achieved regarding sustainability in Asia?

Several years ago, even though I compete with the Asian competitors every day, we got everyone together, all the crab processors, and formed two associations—APRI (Association of Indonesian Crab Processors)in Indonesia and PACPI (Philippine Crab Processors Association Inc.) in the Philippines—to specifically address sustainability in Asia.

And a couple of years ago we got together the 13 companies that import Asian crab and created the NFI Crab Council, to help fund and implement the fishery improvement programs; to encourage and support the sustainability work in Asia being done by the producer associations; and to persuade governments to establish and enforce appropriate regulations for the crab industry.

One of the unique things our council has done is impose a 1.5-cents-per-pound fee on each pound of crabmeat we import. Through this import fee imposed upon ourselves and from grants from other organizations, we had $500,000 last year to help fund the sustainability programs in Asia. If we double that next year to 3 cents that will double the total amount to $1 million to fund sustainability initiatives in Southeast Asia.



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