Digital traceability is THE solution to ensure sustainability in fish and seafood supply chains

08 June 2022
Harmonised data standards and digital data sharing across all supply chain partners

Today consumers are more aware about the environmental impacts of their purchasing decisions and want to make sustainable choices on safe and healthy food. Product traceability provides information on all stages in the supply chain such as how, where, by whom it was produced, processed, transported, stored, distributed, purchased.

Digital traceability

Food traceability in general, is an important aspect of public health policies to effectively address contaminated, defected or ill products, as well as to decrease food losses and waste.

This requires the collection of accurate data, which have been recorded throughout different stages of the supply chain and can be tracked, recalled and made available easily. Businesses opt for different traceability solutions, in terms of paper-based, electronical and digital formats. Standardised, digitalised and harmonised systems which allow for interoperability across different stages of the supply chains increase transparency and public access to data.

The implementation of traceability rules in fish, aquaculture and seafood supply chains is subject to legislation in the EU, as well as in many other jurisdictions. In addition to general traceability rules as part of Regulation EC 178/2002 - General Food Law, the Fisheries Control Regulation (Regulation (EC) No 1224/2009) requires more specific information to be made available to the public such as a detailed fishing log book including identification number and the name of the fishing vessel, species code, date of the catch, quantity, date of departure from and arrival to port, type of gear used, FAO fishing /catch area, water of origin for fish caught in freshwater and commercial designation.

Keeping up with the complexity of these data flows necessitates efficient, secure and accurate traceability requirements. Digital interoperable systems allow for such precise and robust data. In reality most data in seafood operations are recorded on paper and not passed along the chain. This can result in inaccurate and fragmented data and unreported, unregulated, and even illegal fish catches with unlabeled and/or mislabeled products. Additionally, data access in real-time is not possible.

As one of the biggest fish traders in Europe, METRO is aware of its responsibility and is specifically committed to the sustainable procurement of goods. With our digital traceability solution PRO TRACE, we create transparency and promote the safeguarding of fish stocks for the future, also the fight against illegal fishing. PRO TRACE provides lot-based information, is based on harmonized GS1 standards and applicable beyond fish & seafood.

Currently, the EU Fisheries Control Regulation is under revision and being negotiated between the European Commission, Council of the EU and the European Parliament. In order to ensure sustainable seafood products and fisheries management systems we are calling to all stakeholders involved to acknowledge a digital traceability approach to ensure a transparent supply chain.

Here you can read the statement signed by retailers and wholesalers and the Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceability (GDST) members in this regard.

The revision of the Fisheries Control Regulation is a one-time opportunity to provide reliable information to public authorities as well as consumers. Considering possible solutions for small traders, who cannot digitalise their operations immediately, the signatories of the statement see the potential in the evolution of the sector for better risk management and other efficiencies. With the right regulatory approach, we can tackle all the challenges and create the positive impact that the sector needs.

Fish transportation

© megakunstfoto

The new GDST

GDST standards have already changed the seafood environment since their publications in 2020. Now GDST is re-organised from being an informal platform facilitated by two NGOs into a new legal entity as an independent organisation and will work further on supporting business practices and government policies to have a digital, interoperable, reliable and affordable seafood traceability for all actors along the supply chain. Hence GDST is calling key stakeholders to join the organisation and exchange with partners and governments and be informed and engaged about future policies and implementations.