Solving the oceans’ critical challenges will require more brands to directly invest in — and get involved with — restoration, regeneration and rehabilitation efforts. Bumble Bee’s partnership with SeaTrees provides a replicable model for what that can look like.
A new partnership between Bumble Bee Seafoods and Sustainable Surf's SeaTrees program aims to launch an innovative ocean-regeneration effort in two countries — with the larger goal of enabling more corporate engagement and investment in coastal and marine ecosystems projects with scientifically backed regenerative benefits.
“The ocean has the superpower to reverse climate change, but we need to help it happen by protecting and restoring blue-carbon (the carbon stored in coastal and marine ecosystems) ecosystems,” Michael Stewart, co-founder of SeaTrees, told Sustainable Brands™.
Together, SeaTrees and Bumble Bee aim to fill an important gap. Ocean health has long been neglected — despite its role as a regulator of global climate, a source of protein for hundreds of millions, and a repository of rich biodiversity. Human impacts and unsustainable exploitation have resulted in millions of tons of plastic in waterways, the degradation of coral reefs and sea-grass ecosystems, and the strain on fisheries to feed a growing population.
Despite this, funding for ocean protection is lacking. It’s the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (Goal 14: Life below water) with the least funding — neglected by governments, non-profits; and, for the most part, brands, too.
“The organizations in our economy that have those types of dollars are for-profit companies, so that is key. Our SeaTrees platform is creating a space for brands to invest directly in ocean conservation,” Stewart says.
Bumble Bee made waves when it launched an innovative seafood sustainability initiative last year that includes pillars to protect fisheries, reduce bycatch and plastic pollution, and ensure that workers in its supply chain are protected through fair labor practices and community programs. But putting out a report is one thing — the next step was translating this into meaningful action.
“When we began to hear and learn more about the incredible work that organizations and businesses across the world are doing to restore the ocean, it made sense to investigate further,” says Renee Junge, Bumble Bee’s VP of Corporate Strategy and Communications, told SB. “As we researched, it became clear that the ocean has an incredible regenerative effect, but we are at the point that we need to help those processes along.”
Bumble Bee’s initial connection to SeaTrees was through Sustainable Brands — as both organizations are involved in the community. Stewart was impressed not only with Bumble Bee’s plan, but how the entire organization seemed committed to ocean regeneration.
“It’s not often that you get an immediate response back, and all the way from the top,” Stewart says. “Their CEO, Jan Tharp, wanted to take time out of her schedule to meet us and see the project site. That tells you that this is a partnership.”
The initial effort will see Bumble Bee invest in supporting the SeaTrees program in two project locations: one in Southern California; and the other in Indonesia — where SeaTrees is working with local restoration partners to do active kelp and mangrove forest rehabilitation, rebuilding damaged ecosystems that can sequester carbon and restore fisheries.
One especially important aspect of the Southern California kelp ecosystem-restoration project is the involvement of scientists, who will be assessing carbon-capture capability and other ecosystem service benefits. Currently, this data just don’t exist; but it could inform future projects, and also allow the regeneration of kelp forests to tap into global carbon markets for support.
“If we weren’t doing this project and bringing partners in like Bumble Bee, there would not be the opportunity for our science partners — like The Bay Foundation — to measure the impact, document it, and then create an effective strategy for kelp forest restoration to be scaled up elsewhere on the West Coast,” Stewart says.
For Bumble Bee, this is just the start — as the company plans to expand its efforts to ensure that the world’s fisheries and oceans are healthy and thriving for future generations.
“Our commitment to supporting ocean regeneration will expand beyond the two SeaTrees projects we kicked off this year,” Junge says. “We are also looking at additional partnerships with NGOs, academia and other institutions for restoration projects in each of our major areas.”
Meeting the oceans’ challenges will require more brands to directly invest in — and get involved with — restoration, regeneration and rehabilitation efforts. Bumble Bee’s partnership with SeaTrees provides a replicable model for what that can look like.