Back in the year 2000, I was approached by a gentleman by the name of John Gunner. John was the former Minister of Fisheries in the UK, and he had an idea.
The birth of the Marine Stewardship Council
This idea was to establish an international organization where participants would ascribe to a policy of only sanctioning fisheries which science deemed to be sustainable. The new organization would be called the Marine Stewardship Council, or as it’s now known, the MSC. It was a novel idea, and John deserves much credit for having the foresight to make the MSC, the de facto Gold Standard in the fight for more sustainability.
A spotlight on sustainability in the seafood industry
In those early days of MSC, John brought together a number of us from around the world, who he saw as seafood influencers, to establish the framework for this new entity. Since our first meeting had taken place in Madrid, Spain, it wasn’t a surprise to any of us when John called for the next meeting to convene in London.
What was a surprise was when John told us that Prince Charles wanted to host our next meeting at St. James’s Palace. It turned out the Prince was very involved with the efforts of the World Wildlife Fund, and had a keen interest in issues of sustainability.
We’re not in Kansas (or Massachusetts) anymore
Each of us got these very formal invitations to appear at the Palace, and to be honest it was an exciting honor. An English Palace as you might imagine is quite ornate. Suits of knights’ armor lined the hallways and let’s just say you knew you weren’t in Kansas.
After the presentations were over, the Prince hosted a reception for us. About halfway through the reception, Gunner motioned me over wanting to introduce me to the Prince. As I recall Prince Charles was a rather affable fellow and even made a self-effacing joke. Well, having had a drink (or maybe 2), I had no problem joining in his laughter, and slapped him on the shoulder.
At that, everything went momentarily silent.
In a nanosecond I realized my mistake: You DO NOT under any circumstance, excluding a handshake, TOUCH a Royal. Though it seemed like an eternity, the shock amongst the English actually lasted only a few seconds, and the Prince, to his credit, acted as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.
Distinguished Americans leave a lasting impression
Later that night, Mark Kurlansky, author of the bestselling book Cod, and I met for a drink in the hotel bar. Mark said “You and I really distinguished ourselves as Americans. I insulted the Prince by not acknowledging him when he wanted to ask me a question, and you hit him!”
Pro Tip: Apparently, if you’re giving a presentation and a member of the Royal Family raises their hand, you’re supposed to stop mid-sentence and answer.
Aside from our blowing Royal protocol, we toasted the Prince for his commitment to support us in our efforts to further responsible fishing.
And for that we say Hail to the King!