Who better to kick off our blog than Wild Planet’s very own Founder and President, Bill Carvalho? In his article, Bill shares Wild Planet’s vision for the blog, his love for the oceans and sustainability and the story behind how Wild Planet Foods came into being.
Recently, one customer asked me: when will you share your content with more than one person at a time? She then suggested that I write a book. While I do enjoy writing, I prefer a more interactive method of communicating with Wild Planet’s customers — and so Wild Planet’s blog was born!
This blog fulfills our longtime desire to regularly communicate with our supporters by exploring environmental issues at large, sharing our favorite recipes and providing fitness and nutrition tips from well-respected nutritionists and health professionals. Our goal is to equip readers with all of the tools needed to live a ‘Wildly Good’ and sustainable life. In future posts, I plan to personally share some of the best and most enlightening exchanges between myself and inquiring customers. Today, however, I’d like to start with a little background information that explains how I became an avid proponent of sustainable ocean practices and of excellent seafood.
Being raised on the Northern Coast of California and as the grandson of Azorean Portuguese immigrants, I had a love of the sea and delicious seafood from an early age. My family ate fish more than anything else, and my father moonlighted as a commercial fisherman after finishing his day job in a redwood lumber mill. We even canned our own albacore tuna every summer in glass Mason jars—just tuna and salt, nothing else. Sound familiar?
My hometown is Arcata CA, known as a bastion of environmental ideals and the natural food mission. In addition to these molding forces, I’ve also come to possess deep-seated reverence for the natural world, which I believe is the product of awe-inspiring design that should move us to nurture its prosperity and foster its finely tuned functionality. That natural world condition and symbiotic balance is what I call “wild planet.” The planet is designed to be wildly alive and to support life everywhere, in every drop of water and every teaspoonful of soil.
All these influences converged and made me receptive to an incident in 2001 that transformed my secular endeavors. During one of many family visits with my wife and then three small children to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, I was exceptionally moved by one of their presentations: “Oceans in Crisis.” At that time, I had been the owner of a seafood company since 1990 and knew all was not well environmentally with modern fishing practices. What I saw presented that day resonated with me completely. The oceans have reached their breaking point not just from overfishing, but also—and more pointedly—from wrongly fishing. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program became my guiding principle, and in that year, I converted my company to 100% “eco-friendly sourcing.” The word sustainable was not yet in use regarding seafood.
I knew I needed to shift from selling generic seafood in a box, or tote or full truckload, and instead, create a brand and products that could tell the story of fishing responsibly. I put my heartfelt view of the earth as it should be, right in the center of the logo that we created in 2004, and that logo remains the same today – Wild Planet. With this brand, and a little bit of label space on each can, we started speaking out about selective harvest practices. Really, sustainability is anchored in selectivity. Selective harvesting takes almost exclusively the target species with negligible by-catch and does not take the babies along with the more full-grown fish.
Pole and line and troll-caught tuna have been the hallmark of the Wild Planet brand. These methods do not destroy non-target species and do not target tiny tuna, as does modern FAD-based purse seine fishing.
Wild Planet is now the number four brand of canned tuna in the U.S., behind the three big brands. Those brands ignored us years ago, considering us a tiny niche product that would never amount to anything. They may have thought that the damage to the ocean environment caused by their fishing practices that produced their primary supply would not become widely known. Both assumptions could not have been more amiss.
Consumers like yourself have spoken through their grocery dollars that the environment is a priority. Greenpeace and other environmental organizations have influenced retailers to react to consumer will and scientific evidence and to provide sustainably sourced food options. Shelf space in many retailers has been given to brands championing sustainability. This is precisely what gets the attention of the big multinational tuna brands— losing shelf-space. So, now they are wrestling with how to be considered sustainable also.
If they elevate their production standards to those well recognized by the global scientific, governmental and academic communities, then I applaud them and welcome them as mission partners. This would be immensely gratifying to me. However, if instead, the big three brands attempt to lower the standards in order to reduce the hurdle for the term sustainable, in that case, I would detest such an attempt to hijack the growing sustainable seafood mission. There will be more information on this in a future blog post.
I want to express my profound gratitude for the support you have shown to our products and to the environmental mission. You are the reason for the mission’s success. Our brand has simply given you a ballot to cast, a way to go on record as supporting sustainable sourcing. National retailers have noticed, and so have policy makers the world over. It is my hope that human interaction with the earth and all living things on and in it will become more respectful and appreciative of this wonderfully miraculous, wild planet.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned,
Founder and President, Wild Planet Foods