Traceability starts with attaching to each fish caught a set of information such as where and when the fish was caught, the name of the fishing boat, the license it carries, and the type of gear the fishers used.
Detailed data are essential because tracing seafood from sea to plate is not a simple proposition. Global supply chains in this massive industry are complex; some fish might pass through a dozen different companies and several countries before reaching a dinner plate. Ensuring that traded fish have a detailed and connected data trail to their origin is the best way to inform assessments of a fishery’s impact on the environment and its labor practices.
But there is no way to trace products through such complex journeys without a uniform standard for digital data collection and sharing. That’s why WWF spent years working with dozens of companies around the world to create the Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceability standards.
In order for these standards to become an established best practice in the industry, governments must demand fishery information as part of regulatory oversight. That’s why WWF worked over the last decade to help the US pass legislation that makes it illegal to import illegal, unreported, and unregulated fish and sets up a regulatory apparatus to monitor imports and gather data.
“We have the technology to put digital solutions in place, not only to trace our fish but to make sure that we know what we want to know about how the fish was produced and the conditions for the people producing it,” says Schorr. “The challenge now is to make this revolution in digital transparency happen, and that’s where WWF’s work is at the forefront.”