SENA16: Traceability in one-by-one tuna fisheries

Adam Baske, IPNLF Director Policy and Outreach, reports back from Seafood Expo North America (SENA) 2016, Boston, 6-8 March, where he presented on traceability-improvement projects within in small-scale tuna fisheries.

Around the world there is an ever-increasing demand from markets, governments and consumers for supply chain integrity. Consumers want to know that the products they are buying are legal, safe, and sustainable. To do this, goods must be traceable throughout the supply chain, all the way back to their source. Improved traceability will help protect and promote responsible fishers, and give consumers much needed confidence in the products that they purchase.

IPNLF believes that robust and verifiable information is needed to secure the supply chain as part of a larger sustainability goal. To this end, we help one-by-one tuna fisheries meet the growing desire for traceability, and we are also developing tools to share the stories of responsible, traceable fisheries. However, there is no one-size-fits-all approach that can be applied across every single one-by-one tuna fishery. IPNLF and our Members recognise the need to develop fishery-specific solutions, and together we are involved in several traceability projects all around the world.  

ISSF Pro-Active Vessel Register (PVR) Trial in Indonesia

The Proactive Vessel Register (PVR) trial in Indonesia is very much about improving transparency and traceability of thousands of small-scale vessels, which make up a tuna fishery that spans across 17,000 islands.

Within this project, data about the vessel (credentials, commitments and compliance) is submitted and collected at field sites, this information is then verified by Asosiasi Perikanan Pole & Line dan Handline Indonesia (AP2HI) and Masyarakat dan Perikanan Indonesia (MDPI) and submitted to their vessel registry. After this, the information is transferred to the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) PVR.

So far, seven pole-and-line vessels have been successfully registered on ISSF's PVR (a first!). Even more importantly, AP2HI and MDPI have registered 693 handline and 111 pole-and-line vessels in their internal vessel registry. The vast majority of these vessels are small-scale – by Indonesian standards this means less than 30 gross tonnes. This is the first time that accurate records have been centralised for these vessels, including copies of all permits and licenses.

Armed with this information, over the next 12 months AP2HI and MDPI hope to rapidly increase the number of vessels registered with ISSF, and also support the Fisheries Ministry (MMAF) to develop a national registry of vessels authorised to fish. These vessel records are also providing the foundation for vessel tracking, catch auditing and traceability systems that AP2HI are developing.

Traceability for Handline Yellowfin Tuna in Maluku, Indonesia

Another highly collaborative traceability project involving small-scale tuna fisheries in Indonesia is the handline fishery centred around Maluku Island. This effort is linked to the first Fair Trade USA certified tuna fishery, and is a great example of a consumer-facing full chain traceability system. 

Participating fishers (often in one-man small boats) are committed to selling directly to registered processors and buyers, collectively forming a tracking system that allows the consumer to trace the final Fair Trade certified products through the entire supply chain back to the fishers. This improves business practices, securing a more stable, mutually beneficial supply chain over the long-term.

A visual display of tuna’s trip through the supply chain is available on the ThisFish website, along with additional information on the species, gear type, fishermen, and processing plants.

Traceability in Maldives One-by-One Tuna

The Maldives is the largest Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified pole-and-line fishery, and with it, is the associate Chain of Custody certification. One thing that distinguishes the Maldives from some other developing world small scale fisheries is the relatively strong licensing and policy infrastructure in place there. These systems do much to deter illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing on the front end.

All Maldivian pole-and-line dhonis (fishing vessels) fish exclusively within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone and are licensed by the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture. Fishing vessels maintain logbooks of catches, which are reported directly to the Ministry. Due to the distances involved and the size of the archipelago, fish are landed either directly to processing facilities or to collector vessels. Collector vessels are owned by processors that record all landings by licensee and quantity. These records are reported directly to the Ministry and are cross-checked with export records.  

Handline fisheries for yellowfin tuna are also showing a strong commitment to traceability. Each fish landed is marked with a tag, which indicates name of vessels, date landed, and grade of fish. Some companies in the Maldives are transitioning to a digitised barcode generation system. Vessels in the system are linked directly to their license and registration. This system allows buyers at the far end of the supply chain to quickly verify that the fish they purchased was legally caught and landed by handline fishermen in the Maldives.

North American Pacific Albacore

An example of a small-scale one-by-one tuna fishery in North America is the pole-and-line and troll fishery for Pacific albacore. This fishery has been at the forefront of sustainability and traceability for years, and in fact, was the very first MSC-certified tuna fishery in the world. In this case, the MSC-certified products are traceable to the exact captain and vessel that harvested the tuna, and this information can be found directly on the tin. Importantly, these products and codes are audited – a key component of any traceability system.

The Future

This is an exciting time to be working in the tuna-traceability world. There is growing interest in collaboration, new applications of technology (or drawing on technologies from other sectors), and an increasing demand for traceability and transparency from both government and markets. Importantly, IPNLF wants to make sure that small-scale fisheries are in a position to meet these growing demands, and that improved traceability is treated as an opportunity rather than a barrier.

IPNLF is committed to finding solutions suited to the particular fisheries and supply chains we work with; we link one-by-one fishing communities throughout the world to partners willing to invest in meaningful improvements that benefit the communities and consumers. As we continue through 2016, we hope to focus our effort on development projects exploring policy improvement opportunities, and new avenues for traceability such as blockchain technology and real-time data platforms.

Check out Adam's presentation here to learn more.