Welcome to the Seafood Technology Interoperability Module!

As part of the Institute of Food Technologists Global Food Traceability Center’s educational series on food traceability, this module focuses on traceability technologies and interoperability specific to the seafood industry.

Since seafood has unique environmental and operational needs and varying levels of technology adoption, companies in this industry need a robust traceability plan that can provide authentication of fish species and protect against illegal fishing and fraud. This module is designed to facilitate the adoption of traceability systems to meet the specific needs of the seafood industry.

The module will provide background on the Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceability (the leading effort to standardizing data capture and sharing in seafood), technical aspects of seafood traceability and highlight case studies on wild caught and aquaculture raised seafood.

After successfully completing this seafood traceability module, you will:

  • Understand that by adopting traceability standards and implementing current technologies, your company will have the tools to address frequent issues in seafood supply chains, such as Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, product authenticity, and labor issues.
  • Recognize other benefits of implementing traceability standards and technologies, including better inventory management as well as product quality and safety.
  • Be able to articulate why each of the topics in this program are necessary to having interoperable (the ability of a system to work with or use the parts or equipment of another system) seafood traceability systems.
  • Begin to frame business questions, decisions and investments based on the information learned.

The Why of Seafood Traceability

Seafood is an important component of the American diet and is high in protein, contains many vitamins and minerals, as well as beneficial omega 3 fatty acids, while being low in fat and cholesterol. In 2017, Americans ate 16 pounds of fish and shellfish products per person. U.S. Commercial fishermen responded to this demand and landed 9.9 billion pounds of seafood with a value of $5.4 billion USD. (NOAA Fisheries, 2018). Seafood is an important commodity that is actively caught, raised, traded and consumed around the world.

Traceability has become an essential tool to account for product in a hyper-globalized and fragmented supply chain. Whether it is maintaining fisheries, preventing seafood fraud or mitigating food safety incident risk, traceability in seafood is continuing to mature and becoming more commonplace as seafood companies around the world adopt traceability practices.

In December, 2018, the New York State Attorney General’s office released a report entitled “Fishy Business: Seafood Fraud and Mislabeling in New York State Supermarkets,” that details common practices in fish fraud within the United States.

The report noted the rates of fish mislabeling that included:

wild salmon (~28 percent sold as “wild” salmon were mislabeled),

red snapper (67 percent were mislabeled),

lemon sole (87.5 percent were mislabeled)

Often, the fraudulent substitutes are cheaper, less desirable, and less environmentally sustainable species. This includes farm-raised salmon sold as wild salmon, lane snapper sold as red snapper, and swai sold as lemon sole.

Seafood traceability can help dramatically reduce the incidence of seafood fraud through additional verification of catch. Currently, product authenticity is based on trust, and the knowledge of — and partnership with — the supplier.  Traceability data would detail catch location and method of harvest. There are benefits to all segments of the supply chain, because:

Harvesters can assure processors and brokers that their product is legally caught.

Processors and brokers can assure retailers that the ingredients processed are of the species and type stated.

Retailers can assure customers that the product being sold is true, accurate and honestly labeled.

In addition, this information is also auditable, and provides a framework to investigate supply chain partners who sell misrepresented product.

You can read more at: Study finds fish fraud is common in New York State: AG warns supermarket chains.

Seafood Traceability Use Cases

Adopting enhanced traceability systems provides numerous benefits to your food company, including enhanced inventory management, increased market access, and improved recall effectiveness.

Since procuring (or harvesting) seafood is a global enterprise, supply chains are highly fragmented and relatively opaque, with products often passing through multiple countries before reaching their final destination at the end consumer. A robust traceability plan will clearly benefit seafood companies that have very complex product supply chains. Traceability can also be used to effectively manage fisheries by accounting for geography, catch method, and other information (such as when the product enters commerce) in wild-caught product and this will reduce illegal activity in supply chains.

Due to the structure of the industry, there are also concerns about labor violations. By adopting standards currently in use for seafood traceability, your company will gain increased market access and be able to mitigate these risks.

Other Benefits

Through adopting traceability standards, such as the Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceability (GDST), your company will be able to communicate pertinent seafood traceability information in a shared format and communication protocol. Because the GDST provides unique seafood traceability information, you may be able to use this to improve your operations.

Technology adoption in the seafood industry is quite variable, especially in the upstream segments of the supply chain (i.e. harvest). Traceability information may be recorded, but depending on the company and the circumstances, the data may be kept on paper or be located in electronic files that are not easily shareable with others.

This module will detail the current identification methods, file formats, and data sharing platforms used in the seafood industry. The goal is to provide you with the tools to implement interoperable traceability technology. This will enable you to address IUU and labor issues while also enhancing your ability to manage inventory, product quality and safety, and other logistical details of the operation.

Understanding the Course Components

This course has four major sections that can accelerate your adoption of enhanced traceability systems, as well as two case studies to illustrate how interoperable traceability technologies work in actual supply chains.

Existing Regulations and Standards

This section provide important context on the GDST and reviews the current regulations and standards that your traceability system should achieve for greater market access and regulatory compliance. Although there have been multiple attempts to standardize data messaging of seafood supply chains, GDST is currently unifying them through its industry-leading approach.

ID Data Capture Technologies

Traceability requires a variety of technologies for identifying products as they move through the supply chain. Most frequently, this is done through the use of bar codes, but there are other methods of identification and data capture that are being implemented by companies throughout the seafood industry. This section will illustrate how these technologies are currently used in food traceability and the challenges of implementing them in seafood operations.

File Formats

When enhancing traceability systems and optimizing data sharing capabilities, it is important to understand the file formats commonly used to share trading information. Because data are shared through a formatted file in conjunction with a data sharing platform, understanding file formats and how they are used in traceability systems is essential to making informed decisions and investments in new technologies.

Data Sharing

Data sharing platforms in food traceability (e.g. blockchain) have received a great deal of attention in recent years. This section will explore the variability of technology adoption in the seafood industry and will show how data sharing can be accomplished through different architectures.

Case Studies (Wild Caught & Aquaculture)

This section will illustrate how the core concepts in previous sections of this module are applied in real world supply chain case studies with wild-caught product and another with aquaculture derived seafoods. The concepts discussed in this module can be abstract, so by carefully reviewing these case studies, you will be able to understand how investment decisions regarding technology will impact your supply chain.

Business Scenarios

As you review this material, we encourage you to think about your own seafood operations, what technology you currently use, and the potential challenges you may have when implementing traceability technologies.

Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceability

The Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceability (also referred to as the Dialogue) is an international, business-to-business platform established to advance a unified framework for interoperable seafood traceability practices. The Dialogue brings together a broad spectrum of seafood industry stakeholders from across different parts of the supply chain, as well as technical experts from diverse disciplines and geographic regions around the world.

The Dialogue is catalyzing the development of interoperable practices that will:

  • improve the reliability of seafood information
  • reduce the cost of seafood traceability
  • contribute to supply chain risk reduction
  • address the long-term social and environmental sustainability of the sector

The Dialogue is organized around a structure and an agenda stemming from a dozen preparatory workshops in Asia, Europe, and North America. With three technical working groups, the pre-competitive (i.e. collaborative agreement by normally competing industry players to new technology practices to facilitate commerce). Dialogue aims to produce an aligned global framework for seafood traceability that has been agreed upon internationally based on four pillars:

Key data elements (KDEs) routinely associated with seafood products.

Technical specifications for interoperable traceability systems, along with standard legal and business formats facilitating business-to-business information exchange.

Benchmarks for verifying data validity.

Harmonization of business-smart national regulations to reduce compliance burdens.

These four pillars are similar to those that have helped create interoperable business-to-business traceability and information systems within other globalized industries, including banking, telecommunications, and pharmaceuticals.

A number of market factors have increased the need for both standardizing business practices and harmonizing regulations to promote interoperable traceability within the seafood sector. These include:

  • growing consumer and regulatory demands for more information about the origins of seafood products;
  • rising concerns about the marketing of seafood which is sourced from illegal, unsustainable, or socially irresponsible practices (including slavery at sea); and
  • increased business interest in improving transparency within seafood supply chains.

Now let’s take a look at Existing Regulations, Standards and Guidance. Or, return Home to select a different section.