Senior campaign director, Oceana

Finalist, Seafood Champion Awards for Advocacy

Beth Lowell has dedicated her 20-plus year career to conservation issues, working in various organizations and capacities including coordinating national coalitions, organizing and engaging communities, advocating for environmental causes and directing national campaigns. Working to help restore the oceans for more than 13 years, Lowell is Oceana’s senior director of illegal fishing and seafood fraud in the United States. She directs one of Oceana’s most ambitious and prominent campaigns: exposing suspicious activities at sea and working to stop seafood fraud by ensuring that fish sold in the U.S. is safe, legally caught and honestly labeled. Lowell oversees a team to create long-term policy changes to protect the oceans. Lowell has appeared in television and radio segments by The Dr. Oz Show, FOX News, NBC TODAY, National Public Radio and Nightly News with Brian Williams.

Overview

Beth Lowell is currently Oceana’s senior director of illegal fishing and seafood fraud in the United States. She directs two of Oceana’s most ambitious and prominent campaigns: 1) exposing suspicious activities at sea using new technology and 2) working to stop seafood fraud by ensuring that fish sold in the U.S. is safe, legally caught and honestly labeled. Lowell oversees a team of dedicated scientists, communications specialists, legal experts, campaigners and advocates to drive campaigns to create long-term policy changes to protect and restore the oceans. Since the seafood fraud campaign launched in 2011, under Lowell’s direction, Oceana has become a respected leader on the issue.

How well does this nominee and his or her work demonstrate the qualities of the category?  

With the ambitious goal of securing the first-ever traceability requirements for seafood in the United States, Lowell led Oceana’s campaign, which began in May 2011, by exposing seafood fraud through extensive DNA testing and campaigning for policy change. Lowell oversaw the campaign to bring this issue into the public eye, while also leveraging media to engage the public and influence policymakers to create change. She led the development and rollout of 15 subsequent reports highlighting the prevalence of seafood fraud and the need to enhance the information that accompanies seafood to combat mislabeling. Lowell’s successful campaigning helped to convince President Obama to appoint a task force in June 2014 to consider potential solutions. In December 2016, the final traceability rule was issued, which was influenced by Lowell’s campaign which demonstrated widespread support for new traceability requirements through community relations, public polling, targeted advertising, petitions, congressional advocacy and media relations.

In what ways has this nominee positively affected, or mitigated negative impacts of, the seafood industry?

Safe, legally caught and honestly labeled seafood is a proven benefit to the seafood industry. To advocate for strong federal regulations to require seafood traceability, Lowell’s final push in 2016 included 1) producing Oceana’s Fish Stories report highlighting how seafood traceability benefits fishermen, distributors, grocery stores and restaurants; 2) publicizing two new Oceana reports – one detailing the global scale of seafood fraud and the other revealing shortfalls in the proposed traceability rule; 3) launching a new poll revealing that 83% of Americans support new requirements focused on eliminating seafood fraud. The results of this campaign included 3,000 media features worldwide, reaching more than 1.3 billion people. The new Seafood Import Monitoring Program, which went into effect in January 2018, requires some imported seafood at risk of illegal fishing and seafood fraud to be traced from the fishing boat/farm to the U.S. border, helping stop illegally caught and mislabeled seafood from entering the U.S.  

In what way do you feel this nominee’s story could inspire others and communicate successes achieved in sustainable seafood?  

Lowell’s story is inspiring because she has dedicated her 20-plus year career to conservation issues, including making meaningful, positive change to protect the oceans and promote sustainable seafood. Lowell embodies the leadership qualities, patience and commitment needed to consistently bring campaigns to the finish line while remaining sensitive to the needs of the fishing and seafood industries, and emphasizing the positive changes that have occurred in these industries. The seafood fraud campaign launched in 2011 and the new regulations went into effect in January 2018, demonstrating that policy change can take years, but Lowell used different tools/channels to continue relaying the same message and need for traceable seafood. Others will surely be inspired by her resolve and commitment. Lowell’s campaign success could also inspire others to: follow their passions; use research and science to investigate and document a problem; engage stakeholders in an important cause; and target decision-makers who can develop solutions.

How would the work serve as a replicable model for others who want to have a similar impact?  

Lowell’s work shows the power of cutting-edge, science-based reports combined with public engagement (starting with outreach to help collect seafood samples to test), and media relations to enable impactful policy change for sustainable seafood and ultimately, sustainable oceans. Through exposing and documenting seafood fraud worldwide, Lowell showed the problem. She then used communications and media relations as the channels to tell the problem to the public. The campaign truly went viral; the reports are still covered by media worldwide, informing consumers everywhere about the risks and vulnerabilities associated with untraceable seafood. Once the public was informed, she then engaged them with petitions and a poll, giving a voice to the American people who also care about seafood traceability, which helped influence policy change. This was a successful example of a well-planned and executed science-based campaign.

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