Creating Transparency in the Seafood Supply Chain

Creating Transparency in the Seafood Supply Chain Industry

You may have heard that the seafood industry is under scrutiny after a recent outbreak of the hepatitis A virus was traced to scallops imported from the Philippines. Since then, reports of illegal fishing, mislabeling, and forced labor have surfaced, prompting consumers, distributors and retailers to ask an important question. How do we make the seafood supply chain more transparent?

DNA Testing

Processed fish often bear no resemblance to the their species of origin, making it impossible to identify them visually. DNA testing can conclusively determine the species and has been used by the Marine Stewardship Council since 2009 as part of their Chain of Custody Standard. More than 3000 suppliers and distributors are currently participating worldwide. Products labeled as MSC certified are sourced legally, sustainable and traceable.

Industry Tracking Technology

The commercial fishing supply chain has always been notoriously hard to track. Because it operates in isolation hundreds of miles off shore, it’s tough to tell where fishing takes place and whether the populations fished are endangered or even safe to eat. Fortunately, these technologies can help.

  • Trace Register

Founded in 2005 and based in Seattle, Washington, Trace Register is a global tracking tool for the entire food supply chain. It allows suppliers, producers, regulators and buyers to easily share product information. For an annual fee and no equipment other than an existing a DSL connection, this cloud-based solution allows large and small operations to document and share the dates, locations of origin and lot numbers of their products across the globe. Some retailers such as Whole Foods already require that all the seafood they sell is tracked with this system.

  • Global Fishing Watch

In addition, ocean conservation advocate, Oceana, in partnership with Google and satellite imagery from Sky Truth, has just rolled out the Global Fishing Watch project. Now anyone on the internet can register on the site and log in to monitor the activity of fishing fleets all over the world.

A little accountability goes a long way toward keeping the commercial fishing industry legal and sustainable, and the seafood supply chain safe for consumers. It will be exciting to see what comes to light as a result of this new program.