Consumers want to buy seafood sourced through sustainable fishing practices. At least, they say they do when asked. As industry practitioners, we certainly want that, too. To position against sustainable fishing practices is like arguing with motherhood, baseball and apple pie.
There are many different and overlapping initiatives underway right now – all inspiring. The seafood industry is making great strides in sustainability and traceability, but it’s clear there is a lot more work to be done.
The current state of play is certification, where participants adopt practices to ensure sustainability according to documented standards and undergo audits and examinations in order to earn the right to advertise their product as processed per the standard. This is all well and good, and is a practice followed in other business domains too. It makes sense.
But, the certification game falls short of our industry’s aspirations, for two reasons –
1. We’re too good at it.
Certification is done with respect to a standard. In the seafood industry, there is no shortage of standards. And that’s the problem. In the words of a longtime friend, “I love standards, especially because there are so many of them." SeafoodSource offers an excellent guide to certifications and eco-labels. The fact that this guidebook – aimed at seafood industry insiders – fills 322 pages is indicative of the issue. We’re so good at creating new standards that we’ve built a maze we can barely sort out ourselves, much less expect the consumer to understand.
2. The wrong fish still slip through
Certification is certainly a logical step – no issue there. But, certification often relies on attestations and audits. That leaves gaps, which data, systems and enforcement aren’t currently equipped to address. That’s not the same thing as a fully transparent supply chain from sea to plate, which is the real aspiration. Our industry is in need of an audit trail which spans all stages of production and processing, for each final product produced.
There’s no silver bullet – moving the needle on traceability requires problem-solving, development and evangelism across a wide range of stakeholders. We’re all going to need to pitch in, and to study paradigms which have been successfully adopted in other verticals.
How do you feel about your firm’s role in achieving sea-to-plate traceability?