Cynthia Yeh is the Sustainability Coordinator at Royal Hawaiian Seafood. In this role, she handles marketing campaigns, social media, and collaborations with non-profit organizations such as the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program. As for activities, from January 2014-June 2015, she developed and ran the Royal Fishbox seafood subscription program, which was aimed at educating consumers about each fish’s story as well as their culinary features. In 2014, she finally found the necessary customer for the inception of the No Waste program. To date, more than 10,000 pounds of high-value sustainable fish byproduct (broken meat, bones, heads) originally intended for industrial tallow was redirected to a local petfood company. Prior to working for a seafood distributor, Yeh was a Fellow at the non-profit organization the Environmental Defense Fund, a Fellow at the Center of the Blue Economy to assess fishery rights surrounding Cabrara Archipelago Marine National Park, and a Peace Corps volunteer serving two years in the eastern region of Romania. Her hobbies include reading historical fiction, spending time with family, and embarking on adventures.
Sea Delight: Sustainable seafood is an industry for the future. Maintaining a healthy ocean with responsibly sourced fish is simply good business. What attracted you to the seafood business in the first place?
Cynthia Yeh: What attracts me to the seafood industry now are explained by these words: international, coastal, family, fun, healthy foods, healthy outdoor environment, water. To answer your question directly, what initially attracted me to the seafood business was my love for recreational fishing with my father, and especially being out on the ocean for California’s ocean run king salmon.
SD: The seafood industry is a significant contributor to the world’s growing need for healthy sustainable food. Why is sustainability important to you?
CY: Sustainability should be important to everyone. I think humans are amazing creatures and we deserve to evolve and continue long into the future. Also, I understand that humans need proteins to survive and fish is a great source of protein. Humans need to develop sustainable food systems or we will eat our planet and all the amazing creatures on it.
SD: What are some of the projects you are currently working on that will enhance the future of the seafood industry?
CY: We focused on three projects in 2015 with specific goals in mind. To minimize good sustainable seafood waste accumulated at our facility, we developed a program called “No Waste,” which created new markets for seafood byproducts. The extra benefit was an additional revenue stream. To educate consumers and connect them to engaging chefs and seafood producers, we created the Royal Fishbox program. This weekly program offered subscribers seafood themes which included guidance on how to prepare the fish and the story behind the fish. To make traceability more accessible, we ran an internal “Know Your Vendor” campaign and turned that information into product pages. These informative pages are available on our website to anyone up, equal or down the fish supply chain.
SD: The seafood industry is one of the most complex global systems in the world because it’s about feeding people. What has been your biggest challenge working in the industry in general and also addressing sustainable seafood?
CY: The largest challenge is associating these global problems to peoples’ every day practices. How can my one laziness of pollution impact the globe? The exciting thing about working in the sustainable seafood industry is knowing that each positive impact I make in this field creates a ripple effect and will impact the entire world.
SD: The best leaders are lifelong learners. What have you learned most recently that has made an impact on your career?
CY: Communication is essential. Lack of communication, not wanting to communicate, not understanding or misinterpreting what is said/heard, or making assumptions has made me sign up for my local toastmaster group. I was a scientist, and we need to be able to communicate global impacts based on science into explanations everyone on the globe can understand.
SD: What advice would you give other women interested in a career in the seafood industry?
CY: I would advise women interested in the seafood industry that you’re going to cause ripples that are evolving the seafood industry’s old school mentality. Your mere presence is already “rocking the boat” so be ready for those ups and downs.