Whether used for maintaining company procurement policies, complying with new regulations, or supporting communication with consumers, product-related data is only valuable if it is trustworthy and verifiable. But actors in the seafood industry—particularly those who work far from production and across many different supply chains—must often rely on verification systems maintained and controlled by others. Aligning industry expectations around criteria for reliable verification will encourage best practices and support interoperability.
Past experience with the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) system for food safety demonstrates that verification of information can be accomplished in multiple ways, including through government oversight, “self-policing” by companies, and/or reliance on third-party auditors and certifiers.
Although standards and mechanisms for verification must remain adaptable to the needs of individual companies – and to varying national regulatory environments – tangible benefits can be gained if the seafood industry could develop shared expectations about data quality and verification procedures. In addition, agreed verification standards could help promote both cost-effective commercial practices and the harmonization of national regulations.
An example of this – and an immediate opportunity – is the development of a “trusted trader” mechanism currently being planned within the emerging US IUU fishing trade regulatory system. The trusted trader concept, which will continue to be developed after the new US regulation comes online, will be an important “litmus test” for defining approaches to verification.