Catch Documentation and Traceability

Asia-Pacific’s oceans and marine bounty are under siege. While there are many destructive forces impacting Asia’s oceans, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing has been identified as a leading threat to the health of fish stocks and ecosystems. In Asia-Pacific, annual IUU fishing is estimated at 1.3-2.7 million tons, which is 8-16% of total reported catch. The total value of IUU fishing in Asia is estimated as $5.8 billion per year. Globally, an annual 24 million tons of seafood is caught and sold illegally. On the market side, fisheries products are commonly mislabeled and their origins and catch method uncertain. For example, more than one third of seafood in U.S. markets has been found to be mislabeled.

IUU fishing is fueled by insufficient fisheries management and a lack of transparency in terms of how, where, and by whom seafood products are being caught. Without coordinated supply chain data, illegal activities will continue to go undetected. In response to the threat that IUU fishing poses to fisheries sustainability, seafood traceability is growing in demand.

What is USAID Oceans’ Approach?

At the core of USAID Oceans’ approach is the development of a transparent and financially sustainable electronic Catch Documentation and Traceability (CDT) system to help ensure that fisheries resources from Southeast Asia are legally caught and properly labeled. The CDT system supports the Partnership’s complementary efforts, including the Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management, Public-Private Partnerships, Human Welfare, and Regional Coordination.

The CDT System will be integrated into a broader Fisheries Information System (FIS) that aggregates data collected from the CDT System with other existing national data collection platforms. The CDT System/FIS is designed to encourage the collection and analysis of ecological and economic data related to seafood products throughout the seafood supply chain, enabling traceability from point of catch to import and end-retail. The integrated systems will support effective national fisheries monitoring, control, and surveillance (MCS), as CDT remains one of the most valuable and comprehensive methods for collecting fisheries statistics at a reasonable cost. Catch documentation at the point of catch can also be valuable for fisheries management, particularly stock assessment and marine spatial planning efforts.

In the context of the Southeast Asian seafood market, CDT will help industry partners and national governments address a number of critical issues, including IUU fishing, the mislabeling of seafood products, seafood safety issues, legal, safe, and equitable labor practices, and gender equality, within the seafood industry.

How Will the CDT System Work?

Electronic catch reporting has already been tested successfully in several domestic wild-caught fish markets, including in the United States and the European Union. In these jurisdictions, electronic catch reporting systems, and the associated analytics performed on the data collected through them, are well-recognized aspects of a broader approach to marine ecosystem management.

At its simplest, CDT means that once captured, the full “path” of a traceable seafood product can be followed, from the fishing boat to the consumer’s plate. The assumption is that CDT will not only allow consumers to select and purchase seafood products that can be traced and verified as legal, equitable, and sustainable, but also discourage untraceable or questionably sourced seafood products being imported by foreign markets. Recent technological advances have supported increased capacity for reporting and connectivity, enabling at-sea data capture for traceability purposes in a manner that was once limited only to shore-side landing sites or storage and processing facilities. Thus, providing the opportunity to expand and enhance traceability reporting, which has often been limited by connectivity and technology restrictions.

Who will Use the CDT System?

Within the supply chain, USAID Oceans proposes to facilitate traceability from the cold storage and shipping part of the chain (where standards exist) back to the processor and harvester (where standards are less developed). The objective is to promote seafood traceability and transparency to be embedded within existing fisheries information systems (operated by fisheries regulators), “Single Window” customs and importing systems (operated by customs agencies), and catch reporting, logistics, and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems (operated by harvesters and processors within the supply chain).

To capture and exchange ‘traceable’ data reliably within such a diverse environment of supply chain actors presents a variety of technical, political, and logistical challenges. Each stakeholder group (i.e., harvesters, processors, ports/authorities, fisheries regulators, cold chain/operators, customs agencies, wholesalers, retailers, NGOs, and technology suppliers) represents unique perspectives and interests regarding supply chain traceability. In order to be successful, USAID Oceans needs to account for and incorporate the diverse needs and perspectives of the full range of relevant stakeholders within the supply chain.