As the second most traded food commodity in the world, the ethical and sustainable procurement of seafood is a hot topic these days. The practices of the fishing industry have a considerable effect on the health of our oceans, and significantly affect the biology of marine ecosystems.
One Santa Barbara-based company, founded by two marine scientists, is positioned to make a positive, lasting impact in the seafood industry. Salty Girl Seafood is a startup that offers traceable, sustainable seafood. The company is just over two years old, but founders Norah Eddy and Laura Johnson started working on the business concept while still in grad school at the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at UCSB.
The pair met the first day of class at Bren, forming an instant camaraderie based on their similar academic paths, both studying Coastal Marine Resource Management. They say Bren School was instrumental in getting Salty Girl Seafood off the ground, offering them early encouragement and support from the get-go.
“parT of whaT makes The company inTeresTing and inspiring is ThaT seafood is an old indusTry rife wiTh problems and There’s a significanT barrier for women in The indusTry.”
Formation of the power team
Once Norah and Laura realized they had a viable business idea, they grew their team quickly, bringing in Gina Auriemma as their first employee, and Craig Cummings as their founding CEO. Craig has since taken on the role of Chairman of the Board, and Vanessa Tang, who comes to Salty Girl with 16+ years of consumer retail experience, now serves as CEO. Tang moved with her husband from Los Angeles to work with Salty Girl because she saw the immense potential of the company.
Salty Girl Seafood sells a line of products nationally. Utilizing their biology degrees to properly vet various fisheries, all fish are sustainably sourced. The company buys primarily from the North Pacific and Alaska and retailers include natural food stores like Whole Foods and Lazy Acres.
In order to aid customers in making informed buying choices, the story of where the fish comes from and how it was caught is actually displayed on the packaging itself. This information often includes the specific vessel it was caught on and even the name of the fisherman who caught it.
“Buyers need to be purchasing sustainably,” Norah asserts, “and they also need to communicate their process effectively to consumers in order to empower them to make good decisions.” It’s clear that in the case of seafood, the consumer really can “vote with her dollar,” and that the vote cast is one for the future health of our fisheries.
“salTy girl seafood has already become a flagship model of TraceabiliTy and sustain Ability in The seafood industry, helping educate consumers about The importance of informed choices.”
Santa Barbara for start-ups
Many will tell you that Santa Barbara is a hard place to start a business and “make it”. The women of Salty Girl Seafood have thus far found the opposite to be true. They say they’re glad to be in the area because there’s so much expertise, wealth and knowledge here. For Salty Girl, being based in this beachy paradise, surrounded by smart, accomplished people has given them access to great advisors. Norah says that they’ve had a number of people excited to mentor them and that those relationships have been invaluable. “I think people are inspired to see young people chasing a dream and climbing a really big hill.”
Part of what makes the company inspiring is that seafood is an old industry, rife with problems and there is a significant barrier for women. Salty Girl Seafood combats these challenges with a great business model, a strong desire to improve the planet, and perhaps most importantly, an exceptional work ethic. Also unique is that their founders have actually spent time working on fishing boats and in fishing communities and aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty.
The Salty Girl team understands the immensity of the challenges they are undertaking, but are confident in their ability to provide practical solutions. “It’s important not to fear monger and to instead bring out the positive cases, and to empower people to make a good choice,” Norah explains. “Like, here is what you can do today to address this problem if it’s meaningful to you.”
Dreams as big as the oceans
Salty Girl Seafood has already become a flagship model of traceability and sustainability in the seafood industry, helping educate consumers about the importance of informed choices. Their goal is to become large enough to positively influence the health of entire fishing communities and their biology. The team reports that they have exciting partnerships in the pipeline with large NGOs and new clients that may help them realize that dream sooner than they had imagined. Let’s hope they keep dreaming big.
For More Information Visit: saltygirlseafood.com