Each Passionfish co-founder had been working on the fisheries/seafood sustainability issue long before meeting one another and forming the non-profit in 2000. Executive Director Carl Rebstock was actually a U.S. Army medical evacuation helicopter pilot flying in Alaska when the Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred in 1989. Not only did he witness the extent of the damage to the coast and marine life, he decided to enter graduate school in marine microbiology at University of Alaska, Fairbanks, where his bioremediation research greatly aided the oil spill clean-up. One of his fellowships was in international marine policy at the U.S. Oceanographer of the Navy. Following that, Carl worked in education at the Monterey Bay Aquarium where he hosted chef instructors and students from the Culinary Institute of America to learn from him about California's marine life resources. Acutely aware of the many competing interests affecting Earth's ocean resources, Carl used his skills as a trained conflict mediator to help design the World Wildlife Fund's "Fisheries Discussion Guide," meant to help communities sort through the economic and ecological impacts of fishing.
Co-founder Patricia Parisi was wrapping up graduate school in journalism at University of Colorado, Boulder, where her research and magazine articles focused on rainforest destruction--the hot topic of the 1980s. As part of her research, she went he went to Central and South America and interviewed people working on coastal forest and fishery issues. She began compiling, analyzing and sharing everything she learned about the issue with fellow print and broadcast journalists and producers as well as chefs and restaurateurs who were contacting her from across the country.
Meanwhile, Co-founder Andrew Spurgin had spent an illustrious, award-winning, and international career sourcing, preparing, and creating amazing culinary seafood delights for the world's dignitaries. As a (sea)foodie since youth, Andrew began witnessing confusing mixed messages in the media about the subject of "seafood sustainability" and, wanting to provide the "right" products and information to his clientele, he contacted both Carl and Patti to compare notes as more and more chefs were doing. Over the best surfside dinner one's ever tasted (prepared by Andrew, of course) and a bit of wine, Passionfish was born. The year was 1999. In 2000, Passionfish became a project of the Tides Center, a fiscal sponsor of non-profits nationwide.
Throughout the mid-1990s (the years BP, before Passionfish), each of the three co-founders had worked in their own fields to educate people on the subject. Independently, they all knew that no one was covering this complex issue in the way it needed to be done. Unfortunately, they also knew that people were caught in the crossfire of conflicting assertions from all sides. The Passionfish team set about educating people not only about the crisis in our ocean, but about constructive, positive and promising new ways to address it.
The Passionfish team began hosting unique forums. One type is held "behind the scenes" where Passionfish brokers and facilitates meetings among leaders from the business, fishing, and conservation communities. These meetings help clear the air of miscommunications and pave the way for reconciliation, productive dialogue, partnership-building and problem solving. In the years since Passionfish was founded, the team has brokered dozens of such meetings.
Another type of forum are those that are open to the public--the largest and most unique one so far is the one Passionfish organized at Oceans 2003, with assistance from its colleagues at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The forum was definitely not the typical panel of "talking heads." Instead, modeled on the approach developed by the renowned Fred Friendly, experts from various disciplines all concerned about the ocean/seafood sustainability issue were on a stage and a skilled moderator asked tough questions of them meant to get at the root of the problems and begin the process toward cooperative problem solving. It generated a full-house with plenty of time for the audience to pose tough questions of their own. Take a read through that forum's transcripts. To this day, no other organization has conducted such a lively, engaging, participatory, and solution-oriented exercise on this subject.
In addition to the behind-the-scenes business forums and the public forums, Passionfish produces multi-media public education programs. Whether seafood demos with tastings and lectures, publications, or special events (including the unforgettable Scripps Centennial Bash), Passionfish puts the sizzle in seafood! Stay tuned as the organization has a new blog and exciting new projects coming up.
The Passionfish team has grown into a vast network of concerned citizens from all walks of life and many disciplines. Everyone in the Passionfish network believes that the ocean is a resource from which to draw healthy food for our world's growing population, while also protecting the ocean as vital ecosystems full of vital inhabitants. Everyone in the Passionfish network also knows and appreciates that answers to our ocean's crisis will not be found amid the extreme or entrenched viewpoints but through a truly cooperative, collaborative, truth-seeking, solution-oriented and celebratory process.
Please take a look through our newsroom to get a glimpse of our many multi-media public education projects over time. We promise that more will be coming soon!
"A smooth sea never made a skillful mariner."