From Dock to Dish: A Deep Dive Into Seafood Sustainability

This week we dive into an interview with Wendy Norden, Director of Science and Global Strategies at Seafood Watch Program at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, discussing the interconnected depths of consumer buying, aquaculture, climate change, and economics of seafood.

Celebrating seafood sustainability is a cause bigger than itself affecting human populations around the world as much as the species we fish and farm, and a cause that Meg Vandervort of Groundswell is particularly passionate about. Meg sat down with Wendy Norden from the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program with questions to help all of us non-marine biologists understand the challenges and successes surrounding sustainable seafood. 

Wendy spent years working underwater as a marine biologist and researcher, before moving to New Zealand and working in a government role overseeing their seafood industry. For the past twelve years, Wendy has been with the Monterey Bay Aquarium and is currently the Director of Science and Global Strategies for their Seafood Watch Program, responsible for the overall scientific integrity, vision, innovation, and direction of the program. She’s also in charge of maintaining global strategic direction and partnerships that support global fisheries and aquaculture improvement.

Welcome! In celebration of World Oceans Day this year, I’m excited to dive into a topic near and dear to me—seafood sustainability. I’m a huge fan of Monterey Bay Aquarium and have been following the Seafood Watch program for some years now. For those who aren’t as familiar, can you give a brief overview of what Seafood Watch is doing to advance healthier oceans?

Wendy:  Sure, and of course. Seafood Watch provides the information needed to make better choices at the supermarket, and we’ll work with business partners to really source seafood and see that it’s more responsibly done. And it really boils down to very difficult subject matter into a guide, like red, yellow, and green, knowing what to source and also knowing that you know, consumer choices really do matter quite a bit. 

You know, that also has very broad reaching applications as well. So when consumers make choices in the United States, our business partners kind of come to the table—they want to source those seafood products that the consumers are looking for and also to make a better planet as well. But on top of that, it also gives producers around the world an idea of where their product is in terms of sustainability. And it is a big landscape, right, from really great production to really poor and everything kind of in between. 

So, we provide that information that helps guide purchasing but also helps industry understand about sustainability in order to make change and make things better, because our goal really is about celebrating seafood, making the right choices, and hopefully improving the rest.

That’s wonderful! I’m actually curious to learn a little bit more about you. We always love to highlight the people behind some of these amazing movements that are happening, but can you give us a brief history or your journey to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Seafood Watch program, and have you always had a passion for the ocean growing up?

Wendy: It’s a very winding path. Growing up I got into scuba diving. Before college, I worked several jobs and saved a lot of money because I wanted to travel, so then I went to New Zealand, Australia, and Fiji as a young person. When I went scuba diving in most of these places for the first time, I did not realize at that point that it could be a job, like you could actually do this kind of work. 

The minute I came back home, I officially got advanced certified and I enrolled in college to really be a marine biologist. Everyone told me at that point, “that’s nice, you’ll never get a job”, but I was determined to do it anyway because I knew I’d figure it out. Throughout college, I had a lot of great internships, and I did a lot of work underwater. I got more experience doing research, but I wanted to do more. 

I ended up moving to New Zealand for several years, and I got a really great job working for the government working on a program to reduce bycatch, and I actually worked on the observer program for the whole country. That really helped me understand how to work better with the industry, how to set goals that maybe people didn’t agree with, but learned how to actually work together. That and science, plus understanding what to actually call it, really helped me. With that experience, I ended up working in academics for a while. When I got to Seafood Watch, all that experience helped me understand how to apply science in an understandable way—how to work with the industry, knowing that you might be at odds at some point, but you actually all want the same end goal as well. 

It really helped me set up my career, and I’ve been with Seafood Watch for almost twelve years now. It’s been a very exciting journey. I learn every day—something different, something new—and I have amazing partners.

That’s exciting! Sounds like a dream job.

Wendy: Yeah, I feel really lucky. I never get bored. I find I’m amazed at the people that I meet all the time because I travel—or I used to before COVID— all over the place, talking to people about seafood, working with producers, understanding where everyones’ values are. At the end of the day, everyone wants to do a good job for seafood sustainability.

You touched on something that leads me to my next question about seafood sustainability in general, which is that it’s actually an extremely complex thing, and it’s not so cut and dry, like just buying from the local fisherman, or don’t eat fish.

But between sustainable fishing practices, aquaculture and the seafood supply chain – it’s a lot to wrap your head around. What would you say for someone who’s just getting into understanding this topic? What is the most pressing thing we can focus on?

Wendy: I feel like at any level, if you want to get involved, there’s a place for you. I think if you really just want to, say, I want to understand the source of a particular seafood  and I’m going to purchase responsibly, use our information. We boil it all down into very simple red, yellow and green. 

All of our reports and assessments are online, so if you want to dig a little deeper, you can read those assessments and understand the issues. There really is a place for any level of information you want, essentially, because we put it all out there. It’s all out there publicly available. 

I think it really is important to know that the choices we make do matter at the grocery store. They do mean something. And they help us do our work and improve, because we want to celebrate seafood. We think eating seafood is a great thing. 

We want to have all seafood produced in a way that’s sustainable and when I say sustainable, I mean the environment. I mean food security. I also mean things like better equity and supply chains. So, it really has to be good for people and the ocean.

Oh, that’s so interesting. I’m also curious, from the general consumers’ perspective, a question that might come up is “should I potentially avoid buying a particular type of seafood?” For example, if I’m buying shrimp, is it more likely that it’s unsustainably caught or has human trafficking attached to it?

Wendy: I go back to using our recommendations. The red is really what things you should avoid. Our hope is that red doesn’t stay red. Our hope is not like you just abandon it and say, I’m not buying this again. But it does matter because when consumers don’t buy something because it’s red, that gives us a lot of incentives to go to the industry and say look, this is really what people are wanting. They want more sustainable products. That does go a long way. 

What we do in our reports is dig into those major issues. Why does it cause red? So we have standards that we develop from wild-capture and fisheries. We know scientifically why it’s not sustainable, and it gives us the consumer demand. It really gives us that extra incentive for the industry to make those changes, which are also good for them. 

Any seafood product generally can be the best choice, farmed from any country that has a species—it’s just a matter of us getting the right data, and us being able to say it isn’t being done the right way. 

So the ability is there, like our green listing isn’t completely aspirational. It is doable, but it’s a high bar. Everyone can actually get there. And that is our goal: To push the entire industry and have a much more sustainable industry overall.

On a brighter note, what are some of the bigger recent accomplishments that the Seafood Watch program has had that maybe people don’t know about?

Wendy: Well, I think a big one that we haven’t talked about enough is our development of our improvement verification platform, which doesn’t sound very exciting, but it really is. We have developed the technology with partners to collect data efficiently and quickly on a farm and then scale it up to a region to understand. We actually can assess thousands of farms and in little time spent, get them to that green level. That has not happened in the past. We’ve developed technology that basically works online or offline and collects data efficiently and quickly, and then we scale it up to a region so you can have more scalable change. It also identifies areas needing improvement. 

We already have 2,000 shrimp  farms going through the system that are green. To me, that’s a huge accomplishment that’s taken us a long time to develop. Very exciting. 

We also have recently launched aquaculture governance indicators, which again doesn’t sound exciting, but it is because we have developed these indicators. We don’t really know what makes really good aquaculture governance structures. What do you need to have? What are the key elements? We worked on developing those key elements to help the governance structures, and it isn’t just about legislation, it’s about how the industry is formed, and how reactive it is to change and how adaptable it is that the system in place in a country or region that allows for good things to happen allowing for sustainability. 

Understanding those underlying conditions and what gets in the way of sustainability is super important, because it isn’t as simple as saying, here’s a checklist. There’s a reason why that isn’t happening. And it could be infrastructure, it could be poverty, it could be too many illegal things happening. It could be many different things. It helps us understand underlying conditions that exist. 

A third one I’ll just briefly talk about, one issue, is why use antibiotics for aquaculture? And that’s spread across every production system from farm salmon, shrimp, tilapia, you name it. 

We convened a large working group of fifty people from over twenty-one countries in the last year with the World Bank and came up with the key areas of impact on antibiotics, because we still don’t even know that necessarily. What are our key recommendations going forward about what we think we should do, and how do you actually make sure the antibiotic issue doesn’t get out of control? Because right now, with warming water temperatures, you’re gonna have more disease, more need for antibiotics. And in poor countries, you often don’t even have labels on bottles for these things. Some people don’t really know what they’re putting in their ponds. 

We are going to be launching our key recommendations very soon on that government and industry and then we’re also doing a series of workshops to talk to farmers directly and find out what their needs are. 

Wonderful, thank you so much for your insight and time, Wendy!

For Seafood Watch’s consumer guides to buying sustainable seafood that Wendy mentions, you can find them at

Log into your Groundswell Personal Giving Account to support Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Seafood Watch Program.

The New Employee Contract with Anthony Onesto

Here at Groundswell, we have the pleasure of talking with people who are passionate improving engagement, retention and overall satisfaction of today’s workforce. We recently had the opportunity to sit down with one of these individuals, Anthony Onesto, author of The New Employee Contract: How to Find, Keep, and Elevate Gen Z Talent. His book dives deep into the ever-evolving employee landscape with the introduction of GenZ workers and the wave automation.

Welcome, Anthony! So glad to be speaking with you today. Your main focus with the book is how to better understand and how to attract and retain employees, specifically for the GenZ audience and population. Why was it important for you to specifically focus on GenZ for your book?

I think there are two elements of the book that I wanted to talk about. One is the macro message about erosion and the unwritten employee contract between employees and employers, “If you give me this, I give you that.” It’s something that’s been established for quite a while and has unfortunately been eroding over time. There are a bunch of different reasons for it. You know, one, the macro economic dependencies on short-term earnings and all these sorts of things that are making decisions that aren’t people related and kind of eroding that contract from the company perspective. Then, having new generations coming into the workforce with this, there’s no like fact that my father worked for one company, his entire life doesn’t exist anymore. I think people look at the employee and say, employees aren’t loyal anymore, but I think it was the companies that started it, right. 

So, it’s a macro view on that contract and how we renew, we need to re-establish that. At a micro level, what I want to do is tell that story, and also provide tactical advice to companies on the next generation of employees that are coming into the workforce. When millennials came into the workforce, we were all surprised that they thought differently and wanted different things than GenX and Boomers. There are commonalities in the various generations. But for the most part, when millennials came into the workforce, we were surprised and somewhat unprepared. 

I wanted to take the macro lens of this employment contract and use it as a way to provide advice for the next generation. GenZ are coming into the workforce. Some of them are here, and over the next five to seven years more of them will come into the workplace. I wanted to explore and understand the question of whether they want something different, like what we saw with millennials. If they do, how do we prepare companies better to welcome them into organizations and around these three different areas: recruiting, employee retention and training?

That makes a lot of sense and it’s super interesting, at least from your purview to see that shift. You explore the concepts of, and the differences between 20th and the 21st-century jobs in your book. Can you give a brief primer on what those actual key differences are and why it really does matter?

Sure, a 20th-century job is typically a manufacturing job or job where you’re required to come into the office at a set time, punch a clock or where your job has specific duties and output. I gave a presentation the other day, and then the image illustration of a 20th-century job is at the turn of the century. Not this one, but the former century. When people used to go bowling for example, there were actual human beings that picked up the bowling pins and replaced them. That was an actual job someone had in the 20th-century. That sort of mechanical, where the output is exactly the same, and they can do the job exactly the same. Today that is all automated.

A 20th-century job was determined by leadership. From the top down they determined the hours that you had to work and the way you had to work in certain ways. There wasn’t a lot of creative freedom in those jobs. Some 20th-century jobs still exist today. Especially that mentality. 

But if we’re thinking about the information age and the stuff that you and I do, we need to really start thinking about these roles in the 21st-century. It’s defined by giving that freedom that job is no longer nine to five that it can be accomplished. It’s output-based. It’s not determined by where you go, the hours you work and all of the elements that we saw in a 20th-century job. It’s about creative freedom and allowing people and we’re seeing an escalation of this. Of course, we saw this accelerate with the COVID pandemic.

The future may be different – where you know people are doing the job and different hours, ways, and all sorts of things. It’s not as prescriptive as it once was.

Yeah, and you even mentioned the idea of automation and I know you explore it in your book. It’s so interesting because the intent was to create and make our lives easier. Yet more people are arguably more miserable and stressed.

Yeah, I mean, I think if you look at the elements, there are two phases of automation. One is incremental automation and the second is full automation. We’ve seen the challenges whether it’s the Tesla autonomous vehicle, which everyone is striving towards. If you’ve watched the movie about Uber, the idea that Travis had, drivers were a friction point in his plan. So, we can remove the drivers, right? So there’s always going to be incremental innovation and automation around these things. The question here is whether the elements of these jobs should exist? So the fact is, if you can automate a role in a warehouse for Amazon, that job can be fully automated by a robot so that person can do something different now. 

What happens to the individual? So like you said, not all automation is great, some of us are miserable. Well, what happens is if things are automated, we become more efficient. We’re looking for other things to do. How do we train folks to think creatively and create programs where you’re not doing that 20th-century task-oriented job, and it’s already here, like e-mail. It’s automation, like most of our jobs are already, you know, automated to a certain degree. It’s looking at the entirety of the situation and being very thoughtful about it versus “let’s just automate this because it’ll make it cheaper to do.”

How do we ensure employees don’t feel like another cog in the wheel? This can really show up if there’s a culture of micromanagement and a sole focus on business metrics.  How can companies do better to address that?

When  you look at it from the lens of GenZ, the idea of micromanaging is something that’s going to be very pushed back. The GenZ generation is going to push back on micromanagement because the majority of them were born with an iPhone in their hands, figuratively speaking. But also just the idea of co-creation. There’s a reason why the majority of GenZ actually has a TikTok account, which is the fastest-growing content medium in the world right now, faster than Netflix and Disney plus, and they have almost a zero content budget. They don’t create any original content. So co-creation, flexibility, all these things are super important for the GenZ environment. 

There’s also rethinking how we foster respect. For example, there’s no reason for anyone to be online for 24 hours, so you can set reasonable expectations and boundaries around communication. The “send later” feature on email and slack is a game-changer. So just because you can send a message at any moment, think about the people that work for you. Are they going to be on and think “oh, he’s on and I need to respond to this right away”? So now I’m using automation to go okay, I’m going to send this tomorrow morning. It’s good for me to do it because I’m most productive, but it may not necessarily be good for the other person. 

It’s those intentional things that are going to be critical. 

That’s really interesting. I am curious from a benefits perspective, what is actually meaningful to this generation beyond benefits like healthcare?

The one thing is benefits are at a higher level mission for organizations. There’s an asterisk there because I think that trends across many different generations are more so like GenX, and then more millennial and more GenZ. So, it’s not very different from the millennial generation, but it’s going to be a critical factor. Company mission for this generation is going to be a game-changer, meaning they will not even consider unless they align on a mission. 

Things like corporate giving where it’s not top-down is interesting. Tools like Groundswell are interesting because you’re incorporating the interests of the employees where normal social responsibility, some executive or some board member is part of some charity and now that company is supporting that charity. Groundswell is exactly what it is. It’s coming from the ground up saying okay, employees in this organization really care about women’s rights, homelessness, etc. And now you’re building your portfolio of charities around what they want. That’s co-creation. GenZ really likes that. 

So I think Groundswell and social responsibility tools are going to have a competitive advantage there. They want flexible job design, like we talked about before, they want that 21st-century job.

For our final question, we want to know what causes you care about.  In the spirit of making the world a better place, what is something you’re passionate about that we can highlight?

Great question. I have a side project – Ella Adventures that produces comic books in partnership with Deloitte Consulting to increase interest in STEM with girls. You can see more on our site and Deloitte’s site too. Women and girls in tech is a true passion project of mine. We are now working on building a pitch for an animated Ella series. Exciting! 

Kathryn Minshew: On Redefining Workplace Culture

At Groundswell, we’re fortunate to know many people who support our mission to reimagine corporate giving. Whenever possible, we love to sit down and talk with these people. It was a pleasure to sit down with Kathryn Minshew, Founder and CEO of The Muse, which is dedicated to defining the future of work. Kathryn believes deeply in diversity and listening to what employees want. She believes employers must consider their employees’ choices, values, and priorities if they are to thrive in the current workplace environment.

Hey Kathryn! Great to chat. Let’s dive right in. What are your thoughts on what’s happening with the Great Resignation?

I believe we are witnessing a sea change in the connection between talent and employers. Many people, I believe, were compelled to reconsider their life choices, values, and priorities as a result of the pandemic. And they are now making changes based on a decision that they want to do things differently. We talk a lot about values-based careers at The Muse. And I believe there is a significant growth in the number of people who think about their work and professions in this manner.

Businesses, I believe, are beginning to see that they must do more to recruit and keep the greatest employees. People want a values-based career. 

I believe we are also witnessing an increase in personalization. We’re seeing an increase in the personalization of the workplace. We no longer all watch the same TV channels or listen to the same radio stations. In fact, many of us receive customized media suggestions or information streams depending on our interests. We’re seeing the death of the one-size-fits-all workplace. Companies now need to respect the individual needs of every employee.

“The death of the one-size-fits-all workplace.” I love that.

Right? People are becoming very clear about the type of workplace they want to work in. 

Companies are beginning to recognize that, rather than catering to everyone in a large, generic fashion, they are most successful at recruiting and retaining individuals when they understand the personalized benefits they can offer. 

How can they be really strong on specific offerings, which might include anything from training and development to learning, generosity, and a dedication to a bigger purpose and mission?

It could be a certain business culture or the way work is completed. It could be prestige, salary, and so on. Many of these aspects will have to be considered by every business. However, it is improbable that any single organization will be able to score a perfect 10 in every single category. As a result, firms must now select where they want to compete. How do they make themselves look the most appealing? And they’re being compelled to be much more receptive to candidates, which I believe is a good thing.

So, to answer your question about whether there is a positive outcome: 

I believe that when employees feel engaged and respected by the organizations for which they work, they are more productive, better retained, and have higher life satisfaction – which makes them better partners, friends, parents, spouses, and so on. 

So I believe we all stand to benefit in the medium to long run. But, in the short run, we’ll see a lot of upheaval. And it’s quite difficult for businesses to know how to respond right now.

Sounds like you believe it’s crucial for leaders at companies, from an analytics perspective, to gain insight into employee opinion about social issues?

I do, certainly. In recent years, Generation Z has been the most socially active generation. 

Unlike past generations, many members of Generation Z look to their organizations to promote or represent the type of world they want to live in, as well as the values that they hold dear. So knowing what their employees care about, what values they hold – this is extremely important for companies.

What do you view as the differing values for each generation – Gen Z, Millennials, and Boomers?

For starters, the variety and diversity of individuals within a given generation is far greater than the hard and fast contrasts across generations. By no means do I believe that all members of a generation are the same. 

However, I believe that earlier career workers have spent more of their lives in a cultural setting where the products they consume are customized to their individual tastes, preferences, and needs, leading them to expect the same from the workplace.

More seasoned workers grew up in a completely different work environment, as well as a very distinct cultural, technological, and immediate environment.

The younger generations have grown up at a time when consumer products have a significant focus on ease of use, and are hyper personalized. Individuals who are accustomed to these products and services are bound to have different expectations in the job market.

Also, I believe that the connection between businesses and politics shifted during the Trump era. A growing number of people of all ages want to work in increasingly diverse surroundings. We’re seeing an increase in this across the board. 

I also believe that wanting to work for a company that respects you is not confined to any demographic. However, some of the most vocal supporters are early-career professionals. And I believe we’ve never been in an environment where the battle for talent has been so fierce. When there is a lot of rivalry for something, that thing gets to dictate a lot of the terms of the relationship. That’s happening right now with talent. And we’re just getting started; in fact, I believe most businesses can expect another large wave of resignations in early 2021. Unfortunately, managing teams for continuity is quite difficult right now. But I think it’s very evident that’s what’s going to happen.