Transparency and traceability within food systems is by no means a new concept-but has gained attention in recent years. Prominent in the seafood industry, the two T’s can provide valuable insight as to the “whom, what, when, where and how” of the product.
They-the two T’s- can differentiate product, highlighting the good ethics and practices of a company or expose the bad. Although more common in large industrial style fishing operations, we have begun to realize how valuable such information is for our small local fleets.
So how does seafood transparency and traceability relate to my position?
A goal of the Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust is to revitalize the local commercial fishery. Achieved through many different processes, a major component of this goal is re-educating the local community about the accessibility of local seafood. And, to emphasize that seafood doesn’t have to be imported nor does the freshness, species composition and impact on the environment have to be of question.
Restaurants, markets, distributors and fisherman who make conscious decisions to be transparent and provide that trace on their product, build back the trust that is often lacking. Similarly, such information can share the story associated with the seafood product that is often misleading or incorrect. This information ultimately strengthening the relationship between the consumer and the harvester.
Recognizing the significance of traceability and transparency, the Trust had asked me to investigate the ways in which traceability is conducted in other fishing communities.
I spent the last several weeks looking at different programs, speaking with different fishing associations and companies to learn how they have incorporated traceability into their routines and the challenges they have encountered.
This research not only provided me the opportunity to learn about fisheries across the world, but, provided me insight to how the past and current regulations have shaped the fisheries we see today. How in many ways, rules and regulations have driven conservation within the industry while simultaneously labeling it as unsustainable. Which not only seems to confuse the fishing community but confuses the consumer.
Although the Trust has no authority to enforce the adoption and implementation of a traceability program. We intend to take the approach of educating on the importance and added value of sharing such information. To provide guidance in making transitions and to act as a bridge between each player. A component of my placement, I am most excited about.