In a media-heavy world, laden with stories of human rights abuses within the seafood industry, it is inspiring to learn about businesses that can be beneficial to the economy, communities and the environment all at the same time. Regal Springs Tilapia, as you will see, is a perfect example.

This story began when an explorer and former UN aid worker, Rudi Lamprecht, sought out to develop a business model that would provide protein for impoverished peoples while also employing members of the local surrounding community. Rudi soon realized that fish farming would be the best way to achieve his goal. Originally starting out by experimenting with catfish and moving on to tilapia, his business began to grow. Thirty years later Regal Springs now employs over 8,500 people worldwide.

Regal Springs produces tilapia raised from hatch to harvest in pristine lake waters with aquaculture operations in Mexico, Honduras, and Indonesia. Two of these facilities are recommended by Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise program and the third is currently undergoing assessment by the Seafood Watch program.

Regal Springs facility on a lake in Mexico. Photo credit: Regal Springs Tilapia

Regal Springs takes corporate social responsibility to a new level by producing tilapia in a sustainable manner and simultaneously contributing to healthier and more financially stable surrounding communities. Recently sold to Golden Springs Group, the company’s mission continues to be to “produce premium tilapia while building communities.”

Heavily invested in where they farm, the Regal Springs facility in Mexico also considers the importance of local competitors. Los Pescadores is a group of fisherman who were concerned the presence of Regal Springs in Mexico would damage their local market for fish in the State of Chiapas. As a courtesy to the local community and local fishery, Regal Springs to this day does not sell the fish they raise in the market of the state of Chiapas. Encouraging kindness over competitiveness has fostered a supportive relationship between this fish farm and the various spaces it inhabits which allows both the business and the community to thrive.

In addition to providing employment, they also offer different health, educational and social programs to help support the surrounding communities where they are located. In Indonesia, they have established a rehabilitation project involving tree planting to help conserve important mangrove forest habitat. Annually they invest two million dollars into communities through development of infrastructure, hospitals and covering wages of some rural school teachers in areas where there is a lack of government support.

Some of the children who benefit directly from the aquaculture industry. Photo credit: Regal Springs Tilapia

As global populations continue to increase in size and protein rich diets, many turn to aquaculture as a means to address this growing demand. Tilapia, however, is not new to aquaculture. In fact, it has been cultivated as a source of animal protein for thousands of years. Nile tilapia are a fast growing, tropical species that is native to Africa. They are also extremely adaptable, primarily herbivores, and are able to live in fresh or salt water.

Tilapia is the fourth most consumed fish in the U.S. and is an excellent, wallet-friendly source of low fat protein. Tilapia production, when using proper management practices, is an excellent sustainable seafood option. This is because growing tilapia vs. a more protein-hungry species reduces impacts on wild stocks of fish. We call it the fish in fish out ratio — amount of fish needed to feed and grow another fish to market size. By having a lower fish in fish out ratio you don’t need to extract wild fish from the ocean to grow tilapia, reducing its overall impact on the environment.

As a longtime supporter of the Ocean Wise program, Regal Springs has demonstrated that aquaculture can truly support the three pillars of sustainability—profitability, social responsibility and environmental stewardship. We are proud to partner with them and continue to educate the public on aquaculture and its continued growth in a more sustainable direction.

Overfishing is the single biggest threat our oceans face today. With more than 675 partners across Canada, Ocean Wise makes it easy for consumers to make sustainable seafood choices that ensure the health of our oceans for generations to come. The Ocean Wise symbol next to a seafood item is the Vancouver Aquarium’s assurance of an ocean-friendly seafood choice. www.oceanwise.ca

 

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