We Are Aquaculture interviewed Pamela Nath, the Sustainable Shrimp Partnership (SSP) director. This Ecuadorian leading organization represents multiple Ecuadorian shrimp producers aiming to establish themselves to impose at the top through the best production practices.
In Ecuador, shrimp stands out as the primary non-oil export product, driving an industry that has the potential to create 270,000 jobs. In perspective, in the year 2022, the nation produced approximately one million metric tons of shrimp, which accounted for an estimated USD 6.7 billion (EUR 6.1 billion) in foreign exchange. They exported these substantial quantities to over fifty countries worldwide.
Dedication and experience over the years have built these figures. Specifically, through a 50-year evolution in the industry, the director of SSP explained that it has been a path of progress. “They are several generations of shrimp producers who have constantly sought ways to improve and make their activity more efficient. They have invested in technology, genetic improvement and have adopted the best production practices, taking care of the natural resources that allow them to carry out their work.” A foundation on which Pamela explained to We Are Aquaculture that has also been accompanied by social commitment and a focus on sustainability. “I think the secret of Ecuadorian shrimp lies in combining all these elements and not neglecting any of them,” she explained.
Pamela tells us that since its inception in 2018, they knew a lot of work needed to be done, but there was no doubt that it was a project that could have influence. Today, Ecuador is positioned as the world’s leading producer and exporter of shrimp.
From love for the land to one of its most outstanding products: shrimp
While Pamela’s initial focus was not on the seafood industry, she has consistently carried her affection for her homeland throughout her career. She believes that highlighting the country’s offerings is a way to set it apart distinctly.
“My professional career has been focused on branding, marketing, and communication. In the past, I had the opportunity to be in charge of managing the Ecuador Country Brand and working in the promotion of Ecuador’s exportable offer in international markets.” Thus, Pamela explained that these work experiences allowed her to approach different productive and export sectors in Ecuador, among them shrimp.
From project to brand: the journey from 2017 to 2018
In 2017, they contacted Pamela to assume the role of Director for the SSP. A project that at the time, as she explained, was only “a pre-competitive platform” that sought to distinguish shrimp for their production practices.
Pamela explained to We Are Aquaculture that two events made this course meaningful for her. “The year 2018 was very special for me. On the one hand, it was the year we officially launched SSP in the markets, and two months later, my twins were born.”
It all began by drawing up a thorough list of challenges to be addressed, for which they decided to rely on a consultant, Avrim Lazar, as well as other specialized organizations with which to make Ecuadorian shrimp shine like no other. World Wildlife Fund (WWF), The Sustainable Trade Initiative, and Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) were some of them.
With these origins, it was officially presented to the world in 2018, taking advantage of the Seafood Expo North America fair in Boston as a showcase. Now SSP is a recognized and recognizable brand that has achieved to elevate the quality of Ecuadorian shrimp even more.
“That’s how I came to the aquaculture sector, to demonstrate that Ecuadorian shrimp meets the highest quality, social and environmental standards; identifying new opportunities for improvement; and providing the necessary tools to consumers to purchase premium and safe products.”
SSP, a project that has stolen her heart
“I identify with the vision and values of SSP. It is inspiring to experience firsthand the commitment of the founding SSP members,” explained Pamela. For her, this union of producers who strive to raise standards and promote a responsible approach to animal, environmental, social, and consumer care is a foundation, not only with growth potential but also necessary in the context in which we live.
Pamela added that it is also a project where everyone has a place. “We are very aware of the need to provide support and opportunities to small and medium-scale producers by implementing improvement projects.”
“Overall, SSP is a project that I believe in deeply. I am excited to continue contributing to positive change and promoting ethical, safe, and sustainable shrimp production,” said the SSP director.
“That’s how I came to the aquaculture sector, to demonstrate that Ecuadorian shrimp meets the highest quality, social and environmental standards.”Pamela Nath
A challenging industry, but with solid values
In a complex and evolving situation, it is not only difficult to distinguish oneself but also to elevate standards. A task that We Are Aquaculture wanted to know how SSP was facing these challenges.
“The biggest challenge is to continue to differentiate the product and highlight its origin to consumers,” Nath explains. “We want to give them the tools they need to identify the sustainability and safety of the product. We want them to learn more about the practices used and to question the product’s origin, who, when, and where it is produced. Behind every box of shrimp is a story, and we want to engage consumers and markets so they can appreciate and differentiate these products.”
Thus, with words that made clear her passion for her work, Pamela explained that the opportunity to work in favor of the industry, as well as resource preservation and social responsibility, was her driving force. “Aquaculture is an activity with a significant impact on the world and has even greater potential. It plays a relevant role in preserving ecosystems, natural resources and ensuring healthy and beneficial food for future generations.”
From Ecuador to the world
One of the things that Pamela highlighted is the dimensions that the project is reaching and how SSP has not only created an impact on a national level but also globally. “It impresses me to witness the keen interest of other countries and markets in learning more about SSP.” A reality that would have laid the groundwork for future projects beyond the border, as Pamela commented for, We Are Aquaculture. “Although we are currently working exclusively with Ecuadorian producers, the fact that SSP is addressing priority issues and seeking alternatives to improve the performance of the aquaculture industry encourages other countries, organizations, and industries to do the same. And this is precisely one of the objectives we set from the beginning, to improve the performance of the global industry, encouraging more actors to join in this change.”
“I am proud to be part of this history and to contribute to the global recognition of Ecuadorian shrimp,” she explained. “I love aquaculture and hope to stay in this sector for many more years to witness the evolution of SSP and its enormous potential. For that reason, I want to continue to achieve goals and see increased changes in the industry globally.”
An industry where women are present
One of the questions that We Are Aquaculture wanted to know about Pamela is the importance of the role of women in the seafood industry in Ecuador, given that, in general terms and especially in management roles are usually occupied by men.
Nevertheless, the glass ceiling that has long constrained women in Ecuador’s aquaculture industry has now been lifted. “In my experience, since I have been in charge of SSP, it is increasingly common to see women playing important roles in the seafood industry, this is something positive and encouraging. I have had the opportunity to collaborate with wonderful female leading organizations, initiatives, and projects on behalf of our industries.”
Furthermore, this is not limited to just the top levels of the corporate hierarchy. Pamela clarifies that a robust female presence exists across all parts of the industry. “At a national level, if you have the opportunity to visit a shrimp processing plant, you will notice that around 65% of the people working there are women, due to their skills and abilities when managing the product. Many of them are the breadwinners of their households.”
Shrimp Summit Ecuador, a success for the second time
Over recent years, Ecuador has been the host of the Shrimp Summit Ecuador. This gathering, orchestrated by SSP, unites individuals from around the world’s shrimp industry to gain insights into various companies specializing in shrimp.
We Are Aquaculture asked Nath how the 2023 edition was experienced first-hand. “The overall feeling experienced was that we achieved our main objective: to allow attendees to live and experience firsthand how shrimp is produced in Ecuador.”
The SSP director clarified that the event saw participation from several countries, such as the United States, United Kingdom, Portugal, Spain, France, Germany, and Japan, among others.
“The event was an enriching experience in every way, strengthening the ties between participants and allowing for a mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge.” In summary, the two days were the ideal time and place to get up close and personal with how the world’s number 1 shrimp, the Ecuadorian shrimp, is lived, felt, and produced.
The Sustainable Shrimp Partnership (SSP) comprises companies dedicated to revolutionizing shrimp aquaculture.With its origins in Ecuador, SSP members share the commitment to attaining top-tier products manufactured by social and environmental benchmarks. By fostering enhanced collaboration and transparency, the SSP strives to deliver exceptional quality while upholding the highest standards.