In a massive global food economy, scattered bits of information start to tell a complex story, but it’s hard to trace the path our food has taken from its origin to our dinner tables. Some food travels across multiple countries, even multiple continents and oceans. This is often the case with seafood, the world’s most traded food commodity. A delicate salmon fillet on your plate may have crossed four international borders across a complex web of production. And the challenge of knowing where your fish originated also means the possibility throughout the supply chain of interlinked illegal activity.
Identifying the challenge
Up to 30 percent of global fishing catch comes from illegal sources, costing the global economy up to $23 billion annually (Agnew et al). Law-breaking vessels can be associated with organized crime, forced labor and human trafficking. Misidentified fish—the type, where and when they were caught, and what gear was used to catch them—can happen at almost every step of the supply chain, with illegal and damaging fishing practices difficult to pinpoint along the way.
Grocery retailers, foodservice companies, and their suppliers in the U.S. and Europe have made progress addressing these challenges in recent years, but their work can still be undermined by those seeking an unfair advantage in the marketplace. Traceability is becoming a powerful tool to address illegal fishing, but requires scaling solutions to the enormity of the problem.
Becoming part of the solution
To address this issue, we have joined a new partnership with the conservation NGO FishWise, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Walton Family Foundation and David and Lucile Packard Foundation, working to bring together diverse entities from around the world to collaborate on novel solutions to this complex problem. The Seafood Alliance for Legality and Traceability, “SALT,” is a collaboration to strengthen sustainable fisheries management by engaging a vast network of participants, including countries that produce and consume seafood, the seafood industry and others seeking to advance responsible seafood production and marine conservation.
SALT will convene sustainable seafood stakeholders from around the world to share their traceability projects and stories in order to learn from each other and identify the challenges best addressed through collaboration. With this knowledge exchange, we can slowly pull apart the complexity of seafood supply chains and paint a clearer picture of what traceability success looks like.
It is our collective hope that SALT will transform how seafood industry supply chains collect and transmit data about the fish they source and sell. For us, that's an important part of the work our Oceans and Seafood Markets Initiative is supporting to protect marine and coastal ecosystems by improving aquaculture practices and the health and abundance of wild-capture fish stocks. SALT is looking for new and better ways to use data to support the work of fishery managers and aquaculture producers—all in an effort to achieve more sustainable fisheries around the world. And we believe that with the complexity of seafood traceability, collaboration is key.
To learn more about SALT, see the official press release.