Four years after the release of its standard, GDST turning corner on wider recognition

"Suddenly, all these disparate elements are coming together. They haven’t formed a planet – but the gases are swirling.”
Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceability Executive Director Greg Brown speaking at a podium during Seafood Expo Global
Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceability Executive Director Greg Brown said the organization is finally turning a corner and gaining the widespread industry recognition it needs | Photo by Chris Chase/SeafoodSource
6 Min

In 2013, the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Oceans identified the need for an industry-driven effort to create an interoperable framework on seafood traceability.

Over a decade later, the Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceability (GDST) is closing in on that goal. 

GDST released its first standard during a session at Seafood Expo North America in 2020, establishing its first set of guidelines for seafood companies on traceability. Two years later, GDST named Greg Brown as its executive director, giving him the task of appealing to the seafood industry and getting more companies to commit to its traceability standards.

Upon taking the helm, he realized that might be a taller order than he expected.

“What we found out was that we weren’t nearly as well-known in industry as we were with NGOs,” Brown told SeafoodSource during the 2024 Seafood Expo Global, which ran from 23 to 25 April in Barcelona, Spain. “The NGOs that founded it were very sincere and had really put their heart and soul into it, but that was really in an NGO environment.”

Brown, who has a background working in the both the seafood industry and for other seafood certification schemes, found that for most companies, the value of GDST was relatively vague – if they knew about its efforts at all. 

The organization, as well, needed to be built out more to accomplish its goals of getting the industry to understand its mission, a problem which was negatively compounded by the standard’s launch in March 2020, as the Covid-19 pandemic swept around the globe.

“We were in a situation where we had a bigger lift than we thought on the organization-building side, and we had a bigger lift than we thought on the messaging side,” Brown said. 

Two years into his tenure, Brown said GDST is now at a turning point.

“Where we are now is we’re finally turning the corner,” he said. “We don’t have people coming up saying, 'What is this?' People know roughly what it is."

Getting there has required a number of different actions, including revamping the organization’s website entirely. 

“The website we had was always really good content, but it was just really verbiage-heavy,” Brown said. “We now have a more focused communication outreach, a more focused website, and more focused messaging to the industry.”

The message for the industry has been focused around adopting the GDST mission, rather than simply implementing it.

“Adoption is really about, ‘Do we all believe in a single standard for traceability?’ Because if we don’t believe in that, we’re going to have a bunch of siloed systems and a bunch of siloed information you can’t share,” Brown said. 

Without the adoption of a single standard, a company trying to sell its seafood to various retailers could end up having to fit all its traceability data into multiple costly formats, Brown said.

Centering its mission around adoption also factors into the second big task for the GDST: identifying its value to the industry.

As for U.S. companies, there was a big push from the federal government that helped that messaging, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has begun to roll out new regulations via the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The FSMA 204 is establishing additional requirements beyond existing regulations that will change how ... 

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