(The spoken version shall take precedence)
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is an honor to be here with you, the leaders of the global seafood industry.
One of my strongest childhood memories is going fishing with my father. We would sit there in our small boat, on the beautiful Baltic Sea, catching one fish after another. And then we would bring our catch home for dinner, and my father would proudly smoke the fish himself under my intense supervision.
Today, if I take my children fishing, I’m not sure we’ll catch anything at all. Of the world’s ten largest areas of dead seabed, seven are located in the Baltic Sea. My sea.
Also, if we are lucky enough to catch some fish, it is likely to be contaminated with dioxins and other pollutants. In Sweden, children and women of childbearing age are advised to limit their consumption of fatty Baltic Sea fish to no more than two or three times a year! For me, that information is very hard to grasp.
The facts are frightening. But, they are not visible. The sight of the glittering sea is as stunning as ever. Just like here.
But the beautiful surface is not telling the truth.
Nor is the abundance of fish and seafood meeting us consumers in the isles of the supermarket.
Fish is the largest source of animal protein in the world. But while the global population is growing rapidly, the growth rate of fish production is on decline. Almost 60 percent of all stocks are fully fished and 30 percent are overfished. In my neighbour country Norway, the cost to produce farmed salmon has almost doubled in just a decade.
To make sure that coming generations are able to live well and eat healthy, we need to act – now. In the next 30 years, we are facing a 50 percent increase in demand for protein. That cannot be produced on land alone. It will have to come from sustainable seafood, from oceans and aquaculture.
The situation is beyond critical. It is actually an emergency! At a frightening pace, we are approaching a point of irreversible damage to marine life. From there, the oceans will not simply bounce back.
Of course, the alarming state of our oceans has many causes, such as climate change and massive plastic pollution. The seafood industry is one part of the problem – but I am convinced it can also be, it should be, it has to be, part of the solution.
It’s not a question of abandoning the ship – but about wisely adjusting its course.
I am honoured to have been appointed by the United Nations’ Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as an Advocate to promote the global sustainable development goals. And I am keen to involve you, as change makers, in the process of reaching those goals.
Looking around this room, I am filled with hope. This is the first time that leaders of the industry have gathered in this way. That in itself is an important step.
But let me be frank: I am asking for more than your presence. I am asking for your active participation, your commitment to the process and your determination to follow through.
Right now, we are at a critical crossroads: Are we going to be the last generation to experience marine biodiversity as we know it? Ultimately giving rise to war and conflict over resources too scarce to feed the Planet’s growing population.
Or, are we going to be the first generation to ensure the survival of today’s endangered species, as well as our ability to provide everyone with enough food? To a large extent, this choice will be made by you, the individuals in this room.
As business leaders, you know more than most people about making cost/benefit analyses. And yes: Converting to sustainable food production will come with a cost. However, the cost of doing nothing will be much greater. “Business as usual” runs the risk of soon becoming “no business at all”.
As large corporations, you have resources that most governments and NGO's can only dream of. Your size and independence enables you to act – globally and immediately.
Your leadership will set an example for the whole industry. And the choices that you make will have profound effects on how we feed the world’s growing population.
Many of you represent companies that have been around for generations, evolving over time from small family businesses to large global corporations. Being that link in a historic chain brings with it a certain responsibility but also a tremendous opportunity.
Whether you are company, a university or a royal court: If you are in it for the long run, you have to decide how you are going to deal with change. If your ambition is just to survive, you can settle for adapting to change. But if you want to thrive – you have to lead the change.
This dialogue represents a unique opportunity to take the first few steps toward sustainable food security, with the key actors of the oceans leading the way.
I hope future generations will look back at this meeting as a turning point. And that you will all take pride in saying “I was there”.
You are the difference that can make the difference.