Getting to Know Our Newest Fish: Helen Packer

Helen Packer is joining Future of Fish as an intern in the Fall of 2018. 

Helen holds a BSc in Marine Biology and an MSc in Marine Resource Management. In 2014, Helen joined Anova Food USA, managing its Fishing & Living program, a sustainability initiative that works collaboratively with supply chains, NGOs and governments to improve social and environmental practices in the tuna industry. In September 2016, Helen started a PhD at Dalhousie University (Halifax, Canada) exploring responsible business practices in the seafood industry, focusing on mid-chain tuna suppliers.

Q: How did you find your way into marine issues? Why seafood?

I went diving for the first time when I was 16 and completely fell in love with the underwater world. From there, I decided to study Marine Biology for my undergrad. During that time I took an inspiring course on fisheries management which taught me about the complex issues that arise from the interaction between men and nature. Wild fish is the last commercial hunting activity and I find it fascinating how it leads to a constant search for balance between the needs (and sometimes greed!) of men and nature. I also love cooking with sustainable and healthy ingredients and believe that seafood is an important part of a wholesome diet and that it should stay that way for future generations.

Q: Interest in seafood sustainability and traceability has grown in recent years. Why do you think that is?

On one hand, new information and communication technologies has lead to growing awareness of the environmental and social impacts of human activities and therefore a growing interest and concern about how our daily actions and purchasing decisions contribute to those impacts. On the other hand, I think that consuming seafood reminds us of our connection and special relationship with the oceans, vast unknown expanses of water, which fulfills not only physical but also spiritual aspects of our lives. Therefore, I think the growing awareness of our impacts on the oceans combined with our special connection with it have triggered a larger interest in seafood sustainability and traceability.

Q: Where do you think (or hope) the seafood industry will be in 5 years? 10 years?

I hope the seafood industry will have made the technological as well as mindset shifts that are needed to create a transparent, equitable and sustainable industry. As we know, achieving sustainability (especially in fisheries) is about working with people whose behaviour is shaped by complex cultural, political, economic and social factors. Understanding where people are coming from and what their needs are is crucial to solving the issues we see in the seafood industry. Today, we are seeing more transparent dialogue and collaboration between NGOs, businesses and government which I believe is the only way forward to identify and achieve synergistic objectives that lead to sustainability. 

Q: What were you doing before you joined Future of Fish?

I am currently doing my PhD at Dalhousie University (Halifax, Canada) focusing on understanding responsible business practices of mid-chain supply chain actors in the seafood industry. Part of my project will be looking at how businesses can support a more transparent seafood industry by implementing electronic traceability systems. I will be asking how businesses are implementing traceability in a way that brings about economic, social, and environmental benefits.


Q: What most attracted you to working with Future of Fish?

Like Future of Fish, I love diving deep into a problem to really understand the underlying causes and how different aspects of a problem connect to each other. I also really appreciate how Future of Fish visualizes problems and situations using innovative designs. I am a very visual person who is always making diagrams of arrows, circles and boxes to understand complex problems and systems.Finally, like Future of Fish, I also think everything is connected. Everything is a system, and we just need to clearly figure out where the sticky points are and then work through them together.