Aquaculture Stewardship Council using new tech to combat seafood fraud

Along with a new marketing campaign that will be the largest in its history, the Aquaculture Stewardship Council is also developing new technology to help it combat seafood fraud.

The new tech is under the umbrella of the ASC’s new campaign “The New Way to Seafood.” As part of the campaign, the ASC said, it is developing new “trace element fingerprinting,” digital tagging and tracing technology, and the implementation of chain of custody protocols.

“Trace element fingerprinting” is a developing technology that will allow ASC-certified seafood to be traced back to its farm of origin with 95 percent accuracy, according to the organization. The technique uses elements in the water, coupled with new artificial intelligence and mathematical methodology, to pinpoint where the seafood came from.

ASC U.S. Marketing Director Mark Lang told SeafoodSource during Seafood Expo North America – which ran from 13 to 15 March – one of the benefits of aquaculture is that the access to the fish allows for a great deal of record-keeping.

“We can go in there, and we can test the water, and we can test the soil below the water. It’s a very managed environment,” Lang said. “So our record-keeping can start right there and follow the fish all the way through. If you can’t connect the chain of custody and supply chain tracing to the farm, you missed a really important connection.”

The ASC has already established a foundation of traceability in aquaculture, ASC U.S. Marketing Manager Athena Davis told SeafoodSource. But the organization is pushing to develop new technologies to provide even clearer traceability for consumers.

“The point of our certification is that we ultimately require actual reporting data,” Davis said. “But what we’re doing is we’re actually developing and implementing, over the next few years, several new technologies that will take that even further and give more opportunities to companies to show to consumers there’s a very clear path to trace back to the source.”

Lang said that the ASC’s decision is partially driven by the overall trend towards further traceability in seafood in general.

“The future of farmed seafood is this, and we see because of our history and the level of rigor we’ve always had, we should be pushing the boundaries and raising the bar,” Lang said.

As part of the program, ASC is introducing digital tagging protocols that will tag, track, and record certified seafood through every part of the supply chain. The program will be added into the ASC’s chain of custody protocols that each member of the supply chain must follow to ensure secure handling and prevent fraudulent labeling.

“So this is testing at the farm, and this is tracing through the system,” Lang said.

The newest technology is trace element fingerprinting, which can pinpoint which waters a fish can come from.

“When we do trace element fingerprinting here and we can tell that a fish came from a certain water like a bay in Patagonia. It’s like DNA testing, but more in the water,” Lang said.

The process takes trace elements from soil and in water composition and finds the way those impact each fish. Those elements stay with the fish like a fingerprint, allowing for the identification of exactly where a fish came from, if the elements are known.

In the past, Lang said, a lot of those trace elements were identifiable, but it is only recently that the technology has been available to organize the data efficiently enough to create the trace element fingerprinting.

“Now all of that data can be managed more reasonably,” Lang said.  


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