Norah Eddy: Our Sustainability Soul Sister

By dchulst on May 2nd 2017

From the fish you eat to the clothes you wear, informed choices are the best choices.

Our friend, Norah Eddy, is a boisterous case in point. “Knowledge is change,” Norah says. “The more you know, the greater an impact you can make.” Wave whisperer and overall sustainability badass, Norah has made it her mission to change the way we eat and source from the Mighty Blue. Her solution? A smarter kind of seafood. In 2014 she co-founded Salty Girl Seafood, a line of sustainable seafood products that are 100% traceable, down to the name of the fisherman who caught your fish.

It all started with a solid understanding of the way humans rely on natural resources. Norah grew up in a small fishing town in Rhode Island, watching fishermen make a living from the sea. She spent her formative years cutting her chops in Alaska’s expansive fisheries and a few years later she went back to school to study marine resource management at University of California Santa Barbara (that’s how we got hooked up with Norah!).

In 2012 Norah came across a study that found a third of all seafood sold in the U.S. was mislabeled. Something was fishy. “Clear traceability is the key to truly sustainable practices,” Norah says. That’s why all the seafood Salty Girl sources goes through a rigorous 6-Point Sustainability Assessment. The result? 100% traceability. For every package of Salty Girl Seafood, you can find the location where your fish was caught, the gear used to catch it and a short bio on your fisherman.

Here’s Salty Girl’s 6-Point Sustainability Assessment:

  1. Management: How is the fishery managed and enforced?
  2. Certifications: What certifications has the fishery received?
  3. Habitat Impacts: What is the gear type and its effect on environment?
  4. Bycatch: What is the effect of gear on bycatch and how is it dealt with?
  5. Socioeconomic: Are there any human rights, social or political concerns in the region?
  6. Population and Monitoring: What kinds of population monitoring and data analysis are in place?

More than a seafood company, Salty Girl is a platform on which to educate consumers and change a flawed fishing system. “You may not think much of changing the way you order fish or shop for clothes, but many splashes create a big ripple effect,” Norah says from aboard a fishing boat in San Felipe, Baja. “When you support sustainable products, you’re casting a vote in support of sustainable practices.”

In the commercial fishing industry, sustainable practices can be a matter of life and death for some species. “Keeping a healthy resource healthy is the key to sustainability” Norah reminds us, “but that cannot come at the expense of another resource.” In the Gulf of California off the coast of San Felipe, the vaquita, a small porpoise, has become an unfortunate bycatch of local fisherman. It’s a problem that’s gone so unchecked that the vaquita is now the most endangered marine mammal in the world, with an estimated 30 vaquita left. “It comes down to knowing the difference between long-term benefits and short-term gains. When you know what’s at stake, the responsible choice becomes pretty clear.”

Whether it’s understanding healthy vaquita populations or the effects of carbon emissions on climate change, it’s our job as consumers and citizens of the planet to understand the impact of our choices before we make them. For more on Norah’s work, check out her interview on the Wild Ideas Worth Living Podcast.