Safer at sea: The unexpected benefit of traceability for small-scale fishers

GENERAL SANTOS, Philippines — The first time Maylene Bibat saw the green dot on her tablet marking the location of her husband’s boat, she was thrilled. “I instantly felt less worried,” said the mother of three. “It was like knowing that he was safe.”

For years, Maylene had to wait anxiously in silence in her small village in the southern Philippines while her husband, Harry, was at sea catching the tuna the family depends on. Hundreds of miles offshore, there was no way for him to communicate with her, often for days at a stretch. Until now.

With fish stocks depleted due to overfishing and after a number of scandals around the use of forced labor on fishing vessels, consumers and companies are increasingly demanding to know the origin of the fish they buy. For instance, in 2017 some of the biggest industry players in the sector launched the Global Tuna Alliance to deter illegally caught tuna from getting to market and to promote “improvements in the environmental sustainability and human rights in tuna fisheries.” Not only big fishing vessels, but also smaller boats, are now installing systems to track where they catch fish and register the data for others in the supply chain to see. These systems are changing the lives of small-scale fishermen like Harry Bibat in an unexpected way: by enabling them to stay in touch with their families.

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Type: Feature Article | Author: Laura Villadiego, Monda | Date: 12 November, 2019 | Subject: Catch Documentation and Traceability | Country: Philippines