A seafood traceability program was launched on Monday to ensure marketplace confidence about Gulf of Mexico seafood. 

The Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission (GSMFC), Trace Register, and MRAG Americas created a traceability system to empower regional fisheries management bodies, the seafood industry and consumers by providing critical information about Gulf seafood throughout the supply chain.

The project is a component of the GSMFC’s Oil Disaster Recovery Program, which is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in an effort to mitigate the economic effects of the oil disaster on Gulf fisheries. With regional coordination by the GSMFC, this program is currently funded through the end of 2015.

The program will createinformation portals that integrate external data such as seafood testing results, and answer complex fishery management questions. It will also be well placed to meet the requirements of eco-labeling programs that require chain-of-custody for fishery products.

“Information about Gulf seafood is out there, we just need to organize it and make it available in the right format for people to make well-informed decisions,” said Alex Miller, GSMFC economist and traceability coordinator. “The Trace Register-MRAG system will allow us to do that.”

Consumers can engage online and through the use of smartphones to learn the story of where their seafood came from, who caught it and where it was transported.

Trace Register, a global food traceability company, will employ its system to capture information from state trip tickets that are used to document catch when boats unload at the dock. Dealers, processors, distributors and retailers can voluntarily link their information about the seafood they handle into the system. MRAG Americas, an independent fishery-consulting business, will conduct random voluntary audits aimed at mitigating risk to buyers.

Economic analysis from 2008, the most recent available, showed that the commercial seafood industry of the Gulf generated more than $5 billion in sales impacts and supported more than 119,000 jobs throughout the Gulf region. Since then, markets have continued to erode as a result of imported seafood products and were later impacted by the oil disaster. The development of a regional traceability system has the potential to reestablish those markets and create new ones by supplying information about Gulf seafood.

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