The Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceability (GDST) is an international, business-to-business platform established to advance a unified framework for interoperable seafood traceability practices. The Dialogue brings together a broad spectrum of seafood industry stakeholders from across different parts of the supply chain, as well as relevant civil society experts from diverse regions.
The Dialogue developed interoperable industry standards (known officially as GDST 1.0) to; improve the reliability of seafood information, reduce the cost of seafood traceability, contribute to supply chain risk reduction, and contribute to securing the long-term social and environmental sustainability of the sector.
The Dialogue was initially organized around a structure and an agenda stemming from a dozen preparatory workshops in Asia, Europe, and North America. With three technical working groups, the pre-competitive Dialogue aimed to produce an aligned global framework for seafood traceability based on four pillars:
- Internationally agreed key data elements (KDEs) to be routinely associated with seafood products
- Technical specifications for interoperable traceability systems, along with standard legal and business formats facilitating business-to-business information exchange
- Internationally agreed on benchmarks for verifying data validity
- Harmonization of business-smart national regulations to help reduce compliance burdens
These four pillars are similar to those that have helped create interoperable business-to-business traceability and information systems within other globalized industries, including banking, telecommunications, and pharmaceuticals. A number of market factors have increased the need for both standardizing business practices and harmonizing regulations to promote interoperable traceability within the seafood sector. These include:
- growing consumer and regulatory demands for more information about the origins of seafood products
- rising concerns about the marketing of seafood that is sourced from illegal, unsustainable, or socially irresponsible practices (including slavery at sea)
- increased business interest in improving transparency within seafood supply chains
Why is a Global Dialogue Needed?
The ocean provides a bounty of seafood, supporting hundreds of millions of jobs and feeding billions of people. But roughly a quarter of the fish caught globally is done in the shadows, fueling a black market that exploits people and ignores laws. Increasingly stringent regulations pertaining to the supply and marketing of seafood, changing consumer habits, and growing commercial demands from supply chain partners are now making it necessary for seafood vendors to have access to reliable information about the origins of their products.
Some of these interconnected obstacles affecting the seafood industry – particularly in comparison to other industries such as banking, pharmaceuticals, and aviation – include an overall lack of standardized key data elements (KDEs), standardized data storage and communications protocols, broadly accepted verification standards, and harmonized government regulations
While there are numerous efforts focused on providing complete transparency as fish are caught, bought, and sold, none of this work has created the conditions to allow universal application around the world. A Global Dialogue is therefore needed to combine industry efforts and expertise, and to quicken the pace at which a single coherent framework for interoperable seafood traceability can be established. Current systems have not been designed to communicate across sectors and geographies—until now.
The Dialogue has laid the foundation for systems to build on setting the stage for fully transparent seafood supply chains. And businesses with billions of dollars in sales have stepped up with commitments to change how seafood is bought and sold around the world. A transparent seafood sector benefits our ocean, businesses, and the people who depend on both.