The sustainability of food supplies is one of the most significant issues currently being addressed across the food and drinks industry – and nowhere is it more pertinent than in the fishing sector. We spoke to Greg Summerton, founder of New Zealand company Okains Bay Seafood, about sustainability across the industry and what lessons overseas companies can learn from Māori culture.
Levels of North Sea cod have recently begun to bounce back. How sustainable are fishing populations in the regions where you fish?
All of New Zealand’s major commercial fisheries are managed and conserved by the New Zealand government’s unique and world-leading fishing management system. Central to this system is the Quota Management System (QMS), which limits the total commercial catch of various species to ensure species are harvested at sustainable levels.
How does the company’s Māori heritage influence the way you do business?
Our “whakapapa” is our conscience; it runs deep. It comes from our past and travels through us into the future. This conscience is in every product that comes from Okains Bay Seafood. The word whakapapa translates from the Māori language as “to whom I belong and where I belong”. In Māori culture, whakapapa represents the spiritual essence of the individual and their social group, and is translated as a genealogical family tree.
You say you use a mix of “traditional and advanced technology” in your fishing. What does this entail and how is it transferable to the food and drink industry at large?
In respect to the gift from the sea (“kaimoana”) we aim to use every part of the fish we harvest. Through constant development of our processing and an understanding of global cultural and culinary habits we can eliminate waste and give value to every part of the fish we catch. Like traditional Māori fishermen, we catch our fish with a hook and bait. This method of fishing, known as longlining, has many benefits including low impact on the seabed, less stress on fish and the ability to target fewer larger, high-value species, leaving other fish in the sea undisturbed.
With 50% of your international trade being accounted for by the UK, does this have an impact on the running of your business?
Of all the countries we export to, the UK has a better understanding about the value of a clean, green, traceable food supply. We also have a long-felt connection with providing the UK with a trusted food supply from New Zealand.
How are you working to lessen the environmental impact of your international trade, particularly the logistics?
In 2010, we purchased Waikene Station. This property is 5,500 acres. It is now a registered carbon farm where native New Zealand trees are being allowed to regenerate including black beech and the mighty giants of the forest, Totara Matai, Rimu, and Kahikatea. These trees will never be cut down. We are issued carbon credits each year by the New Zealand government, which are offsetting our carbon footprint. We also run our vessels on a bio diesel fuel, Bio-Gold.
Do you expect the Trans-Pacific Partnership will impact your business?
Yes, it will make a big difference. The duties we pay makes our products more expensive to the consumer, so the Trans-Pacific Partnership will lead to less duty, better value to the consumer and more sales for Okains Bay.
What can food and drink companies globally learn from Māori culture?
Respect the things you take. Have a conscience, think about our children and the planet.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2019
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