The Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceability, an international, business-to-business platform established to create and promote one unified framework for optimal traceability practices for the seafood industry, is teaming up with the Seafood Business for Ocean Stewardship (SeaBOS), the organizations announced at Seafood Expo North America on Sunday, 17 March.
The two pre-competitive initiatives are both dedicated to improving the sustainability of the seafood industry. SeaBOS was founded in 2016 with the objective of encouraging the world’s biggest seafood companies to engage in more collaborative, proactive corporate leadership in ocean stewardship. The Dialogue was created by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Global Food Traceability Center (GFTC) in 2015, after the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council recommended its creation to encourage the seafood industry to adopt full-chain and interoperable traceability systems and to smooth the pathway to widescale acceptance of those measures. Both organizations have as their primary motivators the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, an aspirational set of 17 goals for 2030 that include a range of objectives and issues, including environmental sustainability, social welfare, and more.
Today, SeaBOS and the Dialogue count seven of the world’s 10 largest seafood production companies – with combined sales of more than USD 35 billion (EUR 30.9 billion) annually – as participants and supporters. The Dialogue has 56 members total, representing a wider swathe of the global seafood industry. The two initiatives are seeking to develop a common set of specifications regarding what information should be catalogued in regard to seafood traceability initiatives, how it should be collected and used to create more efficient and consistent regulatory efforts for the seafood industry; how traceability can improve communication, efficiency, and sustainability across the supply chain; and how those efforts ultimately can be used to create a more equitable and planet-friendly global seafood supply chain.
“Global industry standards for seafood traceability are urgently needed to eliminate costly and unnecessary barriers between the dozens of incompatible, proprietary traceability systems that exist today, and to help guide governments towards the harmonization of standards affecting seafood trade,” the Dialogue said in a press release. “These unprecedented pre-competitive voluntary standards will equip the seafood sector for the 21st century’s globalized, information-based economy, and will help make digital seafood traceability a universal industry practice.”
Darian McBain, the global director for corporate affairs and sustainability for Bangkok, Thailand-based Thai Union – one of the largest seafood companies in the world – said her company backs both the SeaBOS and the GDST organizations and wants to see more widespread adoption of traceability of seafood products.
“As a leading member of both SeaBOS and GDST, Thai Union is committed to responsible seafood sourcing, and we are fully supportive of this initiative,” McBain said. “The widespread adoption of GDST traceability standards across seafood supply chains will benefit the industry globally.”
McBain discussed the new partnership during a panel focusing on SeaBOS on Sunday, 17 March at Seafood Expo North America, along with Wenche Gronbrekk of Cermaq, Jose Villalon of Nutreco, and Henrik Österblom of Stockholm University
McBain said the team-up was indicative of SeaBOS’ efforts to initiate positive change in the industry, and its willingness to step back and use tools already in existence, rather than create new ones.
David Schorr, the senior manager for transparent seas at WWF, spoke during the panel and thanked SeaBOS for joining the Global Dialogue in working toward greater traceability in the seafood industry.
“We have come together to try to lower the costs and improve the reliability of seafood traceability by establishing design standards by both identifying the types of data companies should be identifying and sharing, and figuring out how in technical IT terms how that data should be shared across platforms,” Schorr said. “We all know that seafood traceability is a high priority for many companies, but we also know that up until today, if you want to adopt a seafood traceability system, you sometimes have to choose the silo that you’re going to live in.”
Schorr said the Dialogue’s idea is to have industry-driven standards that are commercially applicable, which allow for seamless interoperability between all these systems.
“if you’re a producer – let’s say a small fishing company in The Philippines – and you’re selling to six or seven different end-users, they may all be asking you for different data in different formats,” Schorr said. “This has contributed to the creation of significant barriers to the adoption of seafood traceability.”
Schorr said several pilot projects are currently underway to test the standards the Dialogue has created.
“After two years of work, we have one more year to go to do it, but can now see this is really going to deliver,” he said. “With the power of SeaBOS and the power of the Global Dialogue, we have a chance to make these voluntary industry standards change the way seafood traceability is done.”
Skretting CEO Therese Log Bergjord said the effort was a necessary one, given how consumers and aquaculture companies are paying more attention to the origin of feed. Skretting is owned by Nutreco, which is a SeaBOS member.
“The globalized seafood industry needs globalized information,” Bergjord said. “We are finally getting close to the pre-competitive framework we need to share information rapidly, reliably, and securely across the planet.”
Adriano Cesar Marcon, the president and group leader of Cargill Aqua Nutrition – also a SeaBOS member – agreed.
“Transparency of the value chain is increasingly important in food and especially aquaculture,” Cesar Marcon said. “We have to be closer to our customers to support them in their markets, and this collaboration with GDST will enable us to align our approach.”