Topic

Traceability

“Information is power. Information about the fish on our plates has the power to improve fisheries management, support equitable working conditions for seafood laborers, and help prevent mislabeled and illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) products from entering the market.” —Seafood Alliance for Legality and Traceability (SALT)

What is Traceability

Traceability implies that a seafood product purchased at a restaurant or retailer may be traced through the supply chain, back to the point of harvest (vessel or farm), including hatchery and feed mill sources. Traceability is accomplished by documenting the product chain of custody, record keeping, and proper handling protocols during processing, shipping, and receiving to ensure that products are tracked accurately.

Implementing traceability requires investment, cooperation, and transparency across seafood supply chains. However, when shared, traceability information about where seafood came from, who caught it, how it was caught, and how it was handled or processed may support efforts to detect and deter, seafood fraud, labor abuse, overfishing, and support a range of other business functions. The ultimate goal is to have end-to-end, electronic, interoperable traceability in place throughout global seafood supply chains.

For more guidance, see FishWise’s Advancing Traceability in the Seafood Industry: Assessing Challenges and Opportunities.

Traceable Fisheries: Triple Impact Benefits

Creating and administering a program to collect useful data from fishing activities is a collaborative and valuable undertaking for governments and companies alike. Once collected, multiple stakeholders may use this data to achieve ecological, social, and economic goals. Building that triple-impact, or ‘comprehensive’, approach into the design and implementation of a country’s electronic catch documentation and traceability (eCDT) program is one method to help meet all three goals.

The Seafood Alliance for Legality and Traceability (SALT)—a global community of governments, the seafood industry, and non-governmental organizations implemented by FishWise—advanced six principles for developing comprehensive eCDT programs.

  • Use data to inform decision-making.
  • Create a program that is electronic, interoperable, and data secure.
  • Be inclusive and collaborative with stakeholders.
  • Build a lasting and scalable program.
  • Maximize ecological, social, and economic benefits.
  • Address data and verification needs across fisheries and supply chains.

Pathway to the Principles, which provides detailed guidance for implementation, is also available.

How to Support Traceability

Several multi-stakeholder initiatives have arisen to support and expand traceability efforts within the seafood industry.

  • The Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceability is an international, business-to-business platform that has brought together seafood industry stakeholders to develop a list of essential key data elements to collect through traceability systems.
  • The Seafood Task Force is a pre-competitive, industry-led group focusing on traceability and supply chain analysis, starting in Thailand.
  • Global Tuna Alliance is an independent group of retailers and tuna supply chain companies implementing the objectives laid out in the World Economic Forum Tuna 2020 Traceability Declaration, among other environmental and human rights goals.

Read about more efforts in the RISE Community.

In addition to collaborative efforts, businesses may take steps within their own company and supply chain to improve traceability. The goal of these steps is to communicate traceability and legality expectations to supply chains and create systems to track harvest location, date, total weight, method of harvest and other KDEs:

  • Configure information technology systems:
    • Configure systems to receive and store traceability information from supply chains. Track all internal processing and handling.
  • Assess risk:
    • Conduct risk assessments to determine products at greatest risk of illegal origin, mislabeling, fraud, and human rights concerns.
  • Train staff:
    • Train staff on traceability protocols such as information tracking, product segregation, and shipping/receiving best practices.
  • Identify traceability barriers:
    • Identify traceability barriers and work towards electronic and interoperable systems with assistance from peers and third-party specialists.
  • Conduct tracebacks and audits:
    • For verification, conduct tracebacks, audits, or spot checks of high-risk seafood products back to points of harvest.
  • Enforce expectations:
    • Set time frames for supply chains to provide product documentation, and enforce those expectations.
  • Support policy reform:
    • Support reform in the company’s nation of business and in the countries it purchases from.
  • Improve transparency and competitive advantage:
    • Incorporate traceability into company image to differentiate brand, gain consumer confidence, and tell the product’s story.
  • Further the movement:
    • Communicate lessons learned and seek advice from others within the traceability movement, such as NGOs, government, and industry.

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