About the Global Dialogue

What is the Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceability (GDST)?

The GDST is an international, business-to-business platform established in 2017 to create the first-ever global industry standards for seafood traceability. More than 60 companies and associations participated in the GDST’sconsensus-based drafting process, with strong participation from around the world, across the supply chain, and at all enterprise sizes. The GDST was convened and facilitated by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). 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:
  1. Internationally agreed key data elements (KDEs) to be routinely associated with seafood products
  2. Technical specifications for interoperable traceability systems, along with standard legal and business formats facilitating business-to-business information exchange
  3. Internationally agreed on benchmarks for verifying data validity
  4. 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

The Dialogue developed interoperable industry standards 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.

What are the GDST Standards?

The GDST standards are global, voluntary, industry-led standards for seafood traceability that are designed to support three main goals:
  1. To enable interoperability among all seafood traceability systems so businesses using different proprietary systems can participate seamlessly in digital traceability across entire supply chains;
  2. To communicate (especially to producers/suppliers) harmonized expectations about the basic information (“key data elements”) that should accompany all seafood products, including to ensure seafood is produced legally and to support sustainability claims; and
  3. To improve the verifiability of information in traceability systems by establishing agreed authoritative data sources.

Although the GDST standards are specific to seafood products (both wild-caught and aquaculture), they are designed as an extension of the GS1 EPCIS standards widely used by retailers and many suppliers across multiple product categories. Accordingly, implementation of the GDST standards can be integrated into multi-commodity systems utilizing or compatible with EPCIS.

Since being published in March 2020, the GDST standards have been endorsed by multiple industry groups and other leading stakeholders in the sustainable seafood space. Dozens of companies have already made public commitments to implementing GDST standards, and more than 30 vendors are already offering third-party traceability services compatible with GDST.

Why are the GDST Standards 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 the Global Dialogue was developed. The Global Dialogue has laid the foundation for systems to build on setting the stage for fully transparent seafood supply chains. A transparent seafood sector benefits our ocean, businesses, and the people who depend on both.