Emilie Dubuc is the Director of Quality Control and Sustainability for Norref-Colabor, the leader in fish and seafood in the province of Quebec, Canada. Dubuc has always been fascinated by the sea. She considered becoming a marine biologist, but focused her education in food science. She started at Norref as the Quality Coordinator and three years later was promoted to Quality Director. As sustainability became more and more of an important issue, Dubuc dove into learning all she could and added Director, Quality Control and Sustainability to her title. Since then, she has received the HACCP and Federal accreditations as well as work with Norref to receive Chain of Custody certification by MSC/ASC as well as be certified organic for the products they carry. She has initiated a partnership with OceanWise and Sea Choice and in 2013, created Norref’s first World Oceans Day event to promote sustainability. Dubuc is always looking for new sustainable products and suppliers to help Norref stay in the forefront of sustainability.
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?
Emilie Dubuc: It’s actually by accident that I found a job in the seafood business at Norref. When I started, I didn’t know much about our oceans and freshwater lakes and rivers, but I always loved eating fish and seafood. Thus, I thought it would be great to work for this industry.
SD: The seafood industry is a significant contributor to the world’s growing need for healthy sustainable food. Why is sustainability important to you?
ED: As the time passed, my work became a real passion. But if we had continued to fish the way we used to I would not have been able to pass on this passion to the future generations.
SD: What are some of the projects you are currently working on that will enhance the future of the seafood industry?
ED: With Norref, we created an event for our clients to discover sustainability. Each year we present multiple suppliers and organizations (such as Ocean Wise and MSC) and their products in a show with conferences so our clients can understand more about sustainability. Here in Quebec it’s still a new “trend” that is not yet embraced by restaurateurs. I also work with clients who want to change their menu to something more sustainable by finding alternatives and to get them partnered with Ocean Wise.
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?
ED: My challenge as a French-speaking Canadian is to raise awareness about the sustainability issue with customers, restaurateurs and retail managers. There is not as much information in French than there is in English. They don’t feel connected to the problem since they (or most of them) cannot read about it. Also, in Montreal we are far from the nearest ocean, so it’s not an employment sector. Usually, people that are interested by the issue are the ones who could be affected directly by a loss of quota or a total shutdown of the fishery. People here don’t feel the same pressure towards sustainability as someone who lives near those fisheries.
SD: The best leaders are lifelong learners. What have you learned most recently that has made an impact on your career?
ED: Actually, sustainability and everything related to it, is what I’ve learned in the past five years. Since it became so much of an issue for me and Norref, my role changed and I am now responsible for all sustainability partnerships, certifications and for finding new products and suppliers.
SD: What advice would you give other women interested in a career in the seafood industry?
ED: It’s still a man’s industry, so be tough and if you think you’re right, stick to your idea. Make your voice stand out and your ideas and viewpoints be heard. You won’t always win your fights, but you will be able to make people change their minds if you’re perseverant enough.