Interoperable Traceability Systems

Seafood traceability practices should deliver the same kind of globally successful results already present in other industries that have already achieved real interoperability. These industries include globally interoperable phone systems, banks and automated teller machines (ATMs), package delivery services, and many other products and services which are widespread in worldwide commerce.

However, unless the seafood industry adopts shared data communication standards and practices, proprietary traceability systems will often remain unable to communicate with each other. In addition, when it comes to the collection of key data elements (KDEs), both the gathering and transmission of the information must be interoperable in order to reduce the costs of traceability.

A lack of interoperability also results in higher costs for acquiring new suppliers or customers, and can lead to companies becoming trapped within the systems designed by traceability vendors – a situation known as “vendor capture.” In addition, the costs of getting good traceability information, or of forming new business relationships, can be unacceptably high without interoperability.

Some of the impacts on businesses include:

  • increase in waste
  • decrease in competitiveness
  • increase in business risks and costs
  • inhibiting a rapid and reliable response in the event of an emergency
  • inhibiting an ability to implement sustainable business practices
  • inhibiting innovation in response to dynamic market demands.

The lack of interoperability of information technology (IT) systems within the sector has far reaching consequences, as it affects the collaboration of businesses along the value chain and weakens businesses’ ability to partner with other members of their value chain.

The problem lies with the fact that the data lives across multiple providers and institutions, and that the industry has yet to fully conquer the challenge of exchanging and integrating this information, due to the use of multiple vocabularies, formats, and systems by all the players in the chain.

The Global Dialogue’s Working Group 2 provides an opportunity for industry and stakeholders to achieve global agreement on a basic IT architecture for seafood traceability.