The first-ever global standards for tracing seafood from the place of origin to the point of sale have been released. This achievement represents a significant culmination of a concerted effort by an international consortium of nongovernmental organizations and stakeholders in the seafood industry: The Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceability.
Organized and launched by the Institute of Food Technologists’ Global Food Traceability Center and the World Wildlife Fund, the Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceability was developed to address the seafood around the world that is caught illegally. Illegal fishing is a pervasive issue for which standardized and consistent solutions had been lacking. With the release of these international traceability standards, a critical step has been taken to reduce illegal fishing and unethical labor practices.
As the principal globalized sector of the food industry, seafood provides nourishment to billions of people around the world; it is also a source of income to millions of individuals. But the unethical actions of a few unscrupulous fishermen threaten to deplete the world’s natural fisheries and destroy natural ecosystems. Often accomplished under slave-like conditions, illegal fishing constitutes up to a quarter of the commercial fish available, with a value of more than $36 billion.
The standards demonstrate the seafood industry’s commitment to the ethical sourcing of seafood. A cost-effective, full-chain traceability system for seafood benefits fisheries, the seafood industry, and consumers by protecting public health, improving trade, increasing sustainable practices, and ensuring quality seafood products. The standards also help harmonize various international regulations on seafood traceability.
The international seafood traceability standards will serve to inform consumers of where their seafood comes from. Such information will help consumers make better purchasing decisions and reduce the profitability of illegal seafood and the purveyors who buy it and sell it. The standards will also establish the data elements that should be tracked and the digital tools necessary to share that information with all stakeholders interested in sourcing seafood through legal and ethical methods. Lastly, the standards will help fishermen, food companies, and other seafood stakeholders meet growing commercial and regulatory demands for a global seafood traceability system. In a press release, Carrie Brownstein, principal quality standards advisor for seafood at Whole Foods Market, said, “These ground-breaking standards have the power to positively change how seafood is tracked through supply chains globally.”
More than 60 companies and nongovernmental agencies helped draft the global seafood traceability standards. These companies include ALDI North Group, Bumble Bee Foods, Fishin’ Co., Japanese Consumers’ Co-operative Union, Karoo Catch, Labeyrie Fine Foods, Orca Bay Foods, Santa Monica Seafood, Sainsbury’s, Sunwoo, Whole Foods Market, and Young’s Seafood.
More information on the GDST is available at ift.org/gftc.