Born in Calgary and raised on Vancouver Island, Guy Dean is one of the leaders in the Albion Farms & Fisheries organization. On his LinkedIn page, Dean speaks about his experience, being involved in the seafood industry for over 25 years as a farmer, harvester, fisher, processor and distributor.
Dean is passionate about supporting and promoting the consumption of sustainable seafood, particularly the long-term viability of the seafood industry. Dean sits on the board of several industry led foundations within North America including Sea Pact, of which he is a co-founder. Dean readily volunteers expertise regarding marketing of sustainable seafood and closed contained aquaculture to move the industry forward.
We spoke with Dean to discuss his storied career and his current role with Albion Farms and Fisheries.
Albion Farms and Fisheries: “How did you get started in this business?”
Guy Dean: “I started working on fishing boats in high school and throughout university. After earning a degree in Marine Zoology from the University of British Columbia, I went to work for a small independently owned salmon farm, scuba diving among other chores. The urge to travel and see the world took me to Japan to teach English however, my love of the sea and not so competent ability to teach English, brought me to a Japanese diving company as a commercial scuba diver where I volunteered on weekends until the owner broke down and hired me full time.”
Dean learned the language and developed a strong knowledge of the Japanese seafood industry. And upon his return to Canada his first job was working for a seafood processor focused on selling fish to Japan. As markets changed, and more and more business was created in North America, Albion Fisheries was one of his customers. When it was time for a change, Albion (recently acquired by GFS) approached him. He accepted the job offer and has been with Albion now for over 11 years. He went from two years of teaching English in Japan to where he is now, 27 years later in the seafood industry.
AFF: “Why have you stayed in the seafood business?”
GD: “What has kept me in the seafood industry is my experience and passion. In Japan, I was immersed in their service-oriented culture for seven years and throughout the rest of my career, I learned about many jobs from the ground up. My experience as a fishing boat hand, commercial scuba diver, primary processor, seafood product sales and distribution has given me the understanding of what it takes to achieve success in the seafood business.
“I have either made companies profitable or helped turn them around to become more profitable because I am good at what I do. I am an analytical thinker always considering three moves ahead much like a chess game.”
AFF: “What are some of the major changes that you have witnessed in the seafood industry?”
GD: “The industry has become more regimented and there is better control of the resource. In the past, the industry was run like a fishing derby. Catch as much as you can, as fast as you can, and sell as much as you can. Now there are individual quotas within each season. Times are staggered resulting in a consistent supply all year round. The catches are better quality. There is a lot less waste.”
According to Dean, the biggest and most important change is the focus on sustainability. Guy has always been a big proponent of sustainability and worked hard to see it materialize, grow and succeed.
AFF: “How did the issue of sustainability materialize?”
GD: “This happened because of the major financial support from environmentally oriented organizations like the Packard Foundation (from the Hewlett Packard company), the Moore Foundation (computer chip company) and the Walton Foundation (Sam Walton, Walmart). These foundations (and companies) have been the drivers of change. They have funded NGOs like Ocean Wise, Sea Choice and many others to conduct research that helps drive the sustainability philosophy, laws and fishing processes. What is ironic is that most fishers have always been focused on sustainability because their livelihood depended upon having a constant supply of seafood for them and their children to continue their lineage and way of life. Growing interest in sustainability also came from the processors and distributors via their customers who requested changes in fishing habits to ensure constant and plentiful supply. Seafood processors and distributors recognized that supporting sustainability reflected a positive corporate social responsibility.
“The whole view of sustainability is changing at first it was a black and white issue there was no grey area. Seafood suppliers took a staunch stance. If it was not sustainable, they would not carry it and a lot of seafood product was de-listed due to overfishing practices of certain species by private fishers. This meant foregoing a lot of financial benefit to these organizations just to make a point. However, in business money talks so (in reality) not much of the fishing practices changed. The fishers simply sold their catch to others who did not care about sustainability.
“Now the movement is spearheaded through a cooperative, educational continuous improvement approach. Programs like FIPS (Fish Improvement Projects) and AIPS (Aquaculture Improvement Projects) are focused on developing and implementing fishing improvement projects thereby making the fisheries more transparent. NGO’s that Albion works with like Ocean Outcome, Sustainable Fisheries Partnership and World Wildlife Federation are constantly introducing improvement projects to help make the industry more sustainable.”
One of Guy Dean’s major accomplishments is the co-founding Sea Pact. Created and operated by member businesses, Sea Pact sets the tone for what like-minded companies can do in a pre-competitive market. Sea Pact grew out of Santa Monica Seafood’s successful Responsible Sourcing/Vendor Partnership (RSVP) Program in collaboration with FishWise. RSVP educates the industry and customers on current issues as well as getting actively involved in those issues. FishWise combines sound science with practical, business oriented consulting to advise Sea Pact on improvement projects to fund, and how to best utilize their resources to promote positive environmental gains.
Knowledgeable, experienced, and passionate about seafood. One can understand why some people refer to Guy Dean as the rock star of sustainability within the seafood industry. You can connect with Guy online via his LinkedIn and Twitter profiles.