Seafood industry stakeholders, including harvesters, processors, distributors, and retailers, are increasingly required – by governments and consumers – to manage their sourcing policies more effectively and transparently than previously.
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.
However, as companies increasingly consider investing in traceability and verification systems, several overlapping problems continue to present obstacles to cost-effective solutions.
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:
- standardised key data elements (KDEs)
- standardised data storage and communications protocols
- broadly accepted verification standards
- harmonised government regulations
Providing a global platform for business-to-business discussions
Within the seafood industry, the discussions needed to build a framework for cost-effective interoperable seafood traceability are still in their infancy, although disconnected conversations are taking place in various regions and market sub-sectors.
If properly linked and expanded, these conversations could help create the framework relatively quickly. Some examples of these discussions include:
- In both the United States and the European Union, separate processes are underway, led by industry representatives and other stakeholders, to define KDEs for seafood traceability.
- In Asia, governments of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as well as industry, are taking steps towards a regional approach to catch documentation and traceability.
- Experts working under the umbrella of the Global Food Traceability Center (GFTC) are devising preliminary solutions for the IT architecture of interoperable seafood traceability.
- Dozens of traceability technology vendors are devising specifications for various parts of the seafood traceability system, and recently some of them began to hold pre-competitive conversations about aligning approaches.
- In various sub-sectors of the industry, discussions are underway to devise multi-stakeholder solutions applicable to specific commodity chains, such as the industry-driven “Shrimp Sustainability Task Force” in Thailand.
Bringing the seafood industry together
In order for these discussions to have the greatest impact, they need to become more globally integrated and highlight key topics that have not yet been addressed.
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.
The current challenges regarding seafood traceability are similar to those the industry faced in relation to health and safety prior to the development of the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system. Now is the time to reach basic, pre-competitive industry agreement on the elements required for interoperable, reliable, and cost-effective seafood traceability.
The ability to track forward and trace back at any point along the full supply chain, no matter how many trading or traceability partners and business process steps are involved.
The ability of one traceability system to work with other traceability systems to seamlessly exchange and interpret key data elements across all critical tracking events in the supply.