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August 18, 2014

New Report Touts Economic Benefits of Seafood Traceability

Fish market in Jessup, Maryland


A new report on the economic benefits of seafood traceability provides compelling evidence for adoption of the practice throughout the seafood industry. Written by Future of Fish, an ocean-focused nonprofit organization, the report makes the case that seafood traceability not only serves to insure a company’s product integrity, but it also provides an added value to the product. Thus, traceability can yield significant benefits for businesses and consumers alike.

The report identifies a number of advantages to having full-chain traceability, including reducing inefficiencies and waste, decreasing staff overtime due to the streamlined process, and improved yields, profits, and consumer loyalty. Additionally, many consumers are willing to pay price premiums for fully-traceable seafood, a fact that can incentivize any economically-minded retailer to jump on the traceability bandwagon.  

The report also discusses various barriers to implementing traceability and offers some possible solutions. Barriers can include companies’ privacy and security concerns, insufficient evidence to convince business owners that benefits outweigh costs, distrust and poor communication amongst supply-chain parties and competitors, and refusal to transition from a traditional, paper-based data collection system. Full-chain traceability also requires uniform methods and formats for data collection and communication, but implementing such a standardized system on a global scale may be difficult.

Future of Fish offers four principles that, upon adoption, will ease the seafood industry’s transition to full-system traceability. First, companies should consider traceability in the cost-benefit analyses of their risk management strategies to provide a better understanding of the benefits the company would see from investing in traceability. Second, suppliers should research and establish their chosen method of product data collection and communication. Third, after adopting traceability measures, members of the supply chain should conduct regular verification tests, such as mock recalls or site inspections, to ensure that traceability data is complete, consistent, and valid. Fourth, with the help of data security innovation, companies should communicate and collaborate with other members of the supply chain to achieve the desired transparency and create a successful traceability system.

Oceana has long been an advocate for seafood traceability, and we welcome this new report and applaud Future of Fish for its efforts to promote supply-chain transformation. As the President’s new task force to combat Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing and seafood fraud works to formulate recommendations, we hope they will consider important input such as this report.