T101 Videos: End-to-End Traceability is a Supply Chain Decision

This series of PSA-styled animations illustrates the benefits and challenges of end-to-end seafood traceability. In particular the videos highlight the importance of all supply chain players participating fully in the capturing, preserving, and sharing of product information.

Traceability is not something a company has. Traceability is something a company does. Traceability is made possible through a company’s processes, including its technology, operational procedures, and worker behaviors.

Traceability can accomplish many business goals, such as:

  • Enable quicker and less costly product recalls
  • Resolve inefficiencies and improve operations
  • Facilitate inventory management
  • Help to reduce product spoilage and waste
  • Allow product differentiation for leveraging different markets and price premiums
  • Preserve accurate product information as demanded by the market

The ability to trace a product back to its origin or through the supply chain depends on the commitment and ability of each company in the chain to capture, preserve, and share accurate and sufficient information about the product with its trading partners at the point of transaction. If even one company does not show that commitment or ability, the information and value of all previous traceability efforts are lost. In other words, one company can derail the efforts and undo the progress of multiple players over time.

Without preserving product information at each step in the supply chain, seafood companies cannot distinguish between fish caught legally and illegally nor prove the legality of a particular product.

Talking points for Video 1: Beginning of Chain

  • Accurate data might be captured at the point of landing, but if that information isn’t preserved at each transaction, traceability isn’t possible. On the flipside, (although not depicted in the animations), a processor might have traceability systems set up, but a fisherman does not capture the specific information the processor desires.
  • Some fishermen who employ best practices with sustainable harvest methods, handling procedures, and data capture find that their efforts are futile because the processors that buy their catches don’t have an interest in differentiating them. Knowing their fish are entering a commodity supply chain, some fishermen may see no value in doing the extra work to fish more responsibly, and ensure high-quality product and accurate and detailed information. Therefore, it may be necessary to have downstream processes in place to differentiate product and preserve data before requesting that fishermen change their practices.

Talking points for Video 2: Mid Chain

  • Similar to fishers, processors that incur the costs of implementing good traceability systems may not receive the full benefits of the systems they implement if downstream companies (toward the retailer) lack the capacity to receive and share that data with their customers.
  • Processors that comingle seafood from different locations or with different harvesting or handling methods miss out on the opportunity to find more premium markets for higher-quality product. They also may lose potentially valuable customers with specific buying criteria.

Talking points for Video 3: End of Chain

  • Robust traceability systems give seafood brands the opportunity to provide the information that resonates most with their target market; with all information captured, brands can choose what data they wish to make available.
  • Retailers can play a proactive role in promoting traceable seafood products via product placement, point-of-sale signage, and other in-store advertisements. By promoting fully traceable seafood rather than just stocking it, retailers can reduce risk for fraud, illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) sources, and human rights abuses in their supply chains and help strengthen demand for more traceable product in the marketplace.