Finalist, Seafood Champion Awards for Innovation
Bubba Cook is the Western and Central Pacific Tuna Program Manager. This program is administered by the WWF-International Smart Fishing Initiative (SFI), but depends on the support and coordination of WWF offices throughout the South Pacific, including WWF-NZ, where Bubba is currently hosted.
The role requires Bubba to work closely with governments to negotiate support for sustainable management of the South Pacific tuna stocks. Bubba first came to work for WWF in 2006 after working for several years at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Service’s Alaska Region, managing fish stocks such as the red king crab, which was made famous by the Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch”.
Bubba has spent a lifetime in and on the ocean, having grown up on the Gulf of Mexico, toured the Pacific in the U.S. Navy, worked as a fisheries regulator in Alaska, and served in a small coastal village in Fiji as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer.
Bubba Cook is leading the implementation of blockchain traceability into the tuna longline sector, starting in Fiji. This innovation is revolutionary to combating IUU fish sales, illegal harvesting, fisheries mismanagement, lack of data collection and will redefine the way fisheries are managed in the future and set a new standard for sustainability within the resource. Their project is not only introducing technology into a cottage industry, but it is introducing the most advanced technology on the current market which is all being lead by an NGO. This in itself presented Bubba with many hurdles that he has overcome.
How well does this nominee and his or her work demonstrate the qualities of the category?
Bubba Cook has absolutely championed the blockchain revolution within the tuna industry. He has moved WWF from a reactive to a proactive NGO that are now pioneering the implementation of blockchain within the seafood traceability sector and through his leadership has set a new standard for innovation within the seafood industry. He has maintained a low profile, but ultimately is the driving force behind this project. His collaborative approach and relentless persistence to achieve his vision for a sustainable future has inspired many key stakeholders to actively support this project.
In what ways has this nominee positively affected, or mitigated negative impacts of, the seafood industry?
The Blockchain technology Bubba’s project is implementing will completely revolutionize the traceability industry and creates unprecedented transparency with the tuna sector. To date, this lack of transparency has been exploited by fishing companies, processors, suppliers, importers, and governments to fuel the IUU trade of tuna across the globe. Blockchain will not only solve this issue by exposing IUU supply chains but it also secures the traceability of legal product in an un-hackable digital ledger and allows this information to be distributed throughout the supply chain from boat-to-plate, arming consumers with the right information to make their own buying decision.
In what way do you feel this nominee’s story could inspire others and communicate successes achieved in sustainable seafood?
Bubba has grown up in a fishing family and understands personally the importance of fishing as a livelihood in so many communities. He took this on as a responsibility of his own to make a change. He has taken charge with an organization that is characteristically constrained in funding and a conservative approach and has made them a leader in technical innovation. He has inspired an industry and technical stakeholders to take the risk on a project and a technology that he whole-heartily believes in and has lead all parties to a successful pilot project. His inspiration has fully engaged all stakeholders to share his vision of having 100% traceability from 100% sustainable sources and is now driving them to achieve these even greater goals.
How would the work serve as a replicable model for others who want to have a similar impact?
Undivided enthusiasm and positivity is what drove this project forward, along with Bubba’s talk less and act fast approach, really got the implementation of the project off the ground. He has redefined what role NGO’s play in the ever changing landscape and did not let any of the bureaucracy stand in his way to achieve his vision. He proved that with the right determination and perseverance you can achieve your desired outcome and should not be characterized by the legacy of your industry/company.