Usually, Guilford County Commissioner Justin Conrad concerns himself with making Guilford County better, however, recently, Conrad and his seafood supply company have been involved in an international effort to make fishing more sustainable.

Conrad is the president of Greensboro-based Bay Hill Seafood Sales, which is now helping lead an International Fisheries Improvement Project.

Bay Hill Seafood, which imports and distributes seafood to restaurants and other sellers, has joined several international companies to relaunch the Fishery Improvement Project for mahi-mahi and tuna in Panama.

Conrad said this week that due to its location and the travel patterns of those fish, the Panama area is key to fishing markets including the US coasts.

Bay Hill has partnered with seafood processors and distributors Alfa Gamma Group, Panalang Union Group, Bajamar Seafood and Tasty Seafood to advance the effort.  Bay Hill is also working with CeDePesca – a non-governmental organization committed to sustainable fisheries.

Conrad said on Thursday, June 23, that the initiative teaches providers how to catch fish in an ecologically friendly way that avoids unnecessary negative consequences. It will teach things like how to avoid unintended collateral catch of other sea life and also teach how to fish in ways that allow the fish population to replenish.

One goal of the program is to ensure a sustainable fishery and to achieve Marine Stewardship Council sustainability certification for both species of fish.

Conrad was pleased Thursday to see a message from Panamanian authorities that they were excited about the effort and supportive of it.

“This action by the private sector is one more example of the commitment that exists in the sector for a sustainable fishery with greater traceability,” part of that message said. “We applaud this important effort and steps taken, and confirm our active participation.”

The new program will allow the collection of information such as catch size, sexual maturity, fishing effort and impacts on other species like turtles, sharks, mammals and seabirds.

Also, given the highly migratory trait of the species involved, the partners will be working in activities aimed at coordinating management improvements with similar fisheries in neighboring countries – all under the guidance of international organizations.

Conrad said this week that the Fisheries Improvement Program resumes work that started several years ago, which had already reached some important goals – such as helping establish a new Panama rule governing longline fisheries.

He said the COVID-19 pandemic, among other things, had put the project on hold for quite some time, so he was pleased to start moving it forward on it again.

Conrad also noted that “Consumers want to feel confident that the products they are supporting are harvested in responsible ways,” and added that this move should help show those consumers that stocks of these species will remain healthy and sustainable for generations to come.”

Anyone who follows Conrad’s Facebook page knows that he’s an avid fisherman himself, which, in fact, is what his plans called for this weekend.  Given the number of photos on his page of Conrad pulling fish out of the ocean, it is no surprise that some joke that he single handedly catches all of the fish that his company provides to restaurants.

The initial stages of the improvement program can be followed at the site