/ Sustainable seafood / Collaboration and understanding: the National Seafood Industry Leadership Program

Collaboration and understanding: the National Seafood Industry Leadership Program

Group of National Seafood Industry Leadership Program graduates under trees
Matt Watson on February 1, 2017 - 4:02 pm in Sustainable seafood
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When I first signed up to the National Seafood Industry Leadership Program (NSILP), I was a little sceptical. As an avid self-learner, I wondered what my facilitators and peers could teach me that I couldn’t find out on my own. Nine months on, after three course residentials and many extracurricular assignments, I’ve come to realise that understanding leadership is simply not a journey you can take alone.

Despite my initial doubts, I headed into the program with a positive attitude and a curious mind. I set aside my perceived weaknesses and allowed the course, my classmates, and facilitators Jill Briggs and Chris Calogeras to help me accentuate my strengths.

The NSILP is designed to equip participants with skills, networks and a whole-of-industry perspective so they can make a contribution at industry, state or even national level. Its strength lies in encouraging participants to appreciate the differences across the seafood industry. There are now over 100 graduates of all ages and from all sectors, including processing, fishing, extension, exporters, importers, marketing, deckhands and employees.

Leadership means good communication

Wherever your strengths and weaknesses lie, successful leadership is intrinsically linked to effective communication. How to use different platforms to communicate was a key element of the journey. For example, being a keen Twitter user, I was able to show other industry members how they could use social media to influence and educate. Man pulling fish from large container of ice water

On the flip side, fans of traditional media guided me through the intricate steps needed to pull together a story that resonates with print audiences. Three dimensional learning is something every NSILP graduate appreciates. Our facilitators emphasised that we could learn just as much from each other’s perspectives and insights as from the formal course content.

Celebrating the seafood industry

As a diverse group of fishermen, scientists, supply chain players and NGO staff, it was important for us to define a common vision and mission to meet the program objectives. Our focus in 2016 was to raise awareness of the diversity of roles within the seafood sector, inspiring younger generations to join the industry. We wanted to position seafood as an industry to behold, to celebrate, to sing about from the rooftops.

In February 2017, we’ll support this vision by installing an interactive seafood industry tour at the Australian Wooden Boat Festival in Hobart. The idea is to profile dimensions of our industry people may not be aware of. By joining the self-guided tour, visitors can find out how the fish and chips they enjoy at the beach are brought to them by many moving parts. Another hope is that younger participants start to see working as a fisher, an auctioneer or a fisheries biologist as something to aspire to.

Leadership and sustainability

The sustainability of the seafood industry goes hand in hand with inspiring future generations to enter the field. Everyone on the course had a different take on what sustainability meant to them, but it was warming to see the MSC program is held in high regard by many of my peers. The fact that so many of the NSILP participants were in some way involved in MSC processes – from working on the science that underpins sustainable fisheries to working with supply chains that source MSC product – demonstrated that the field I work in is far-reaching and an influential mechanism to highlight industry best practice.

I walk away from NSILP 2016, more confident, inspired, and reenergised about the future of the Australian seafood industry. A little collaboration, an understanding of other perspectives, and belief in our power to make meaningful change can go a long way towards shaping an industry that helps feed the world.

Australian National Seafood Industry Leadership Program graduates in smart dress with certificates

Matt Watson

Matt is the MSC's Fisheries Manager for Australia and Southeast Asia.

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