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Seafood Traceability Definitions

Created on Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Seafood traceability is a complex topic, and without a common lexicon it can be difficult the advance the conversation. As part of our ongoing work in this area, FishWise has created a preliminary list of definitions to help all stakeholders use a common set of terms when discussing seafood traceability. These were first shared during our multi-stakeholder Traceability and IUU Strategy Meeting in October of 2014.

We hope this information will be a useful resource and we look forward to updating these terms over time to reflect ongoing traceability efforts.  

What is seafood traceability?

There are numerous definitions of seafood traceability being used by those in academic, industry and NGO circles. The definitions range from general to more specific:

“The ability to access any or all information relating to that which is under consideration, throughout its entire life cycle, by means of recorded identifications” (Olsen and Borit, 2012).

“The ability to systematically identify a unit of production, track its location and describe any treatments or transformations at all stages of production, processing and distribution” (Magera and Beaton, 2009).

When thinking about traceability, it is important to remember that it is a tool than can be used to track product information both WITHIN a company and AMONG companies. Internal traceability is a form of traceability that “enables a company to follow a product through their system after receipt from the supplier” while external traceability “allows for the connection with immediate supply chain partners” (see FMI’s guide for retailers).

Companies who have external traceability choose the most appropriate method for their business in how they track traceability information and who they share that information with (see GTFC’s Traceability Tool). Records may be kept in the following ways:

Paper-based Traceability: Manual paper-based records of the source, transformation, aggregation, destination, and other associated information related to seafood products for traceability purposes.

Basic Electronic: Computerized record keeping of the source, transformation, aggregation, destination, and other associated information related to seafood products for traceability purposes.

Integrated Hardware Traceability: Integrated hardware (e.g. bar codes and readers, RFID tags and scanners) implemented to capture the source, transformation, aggregation, destination, and other associated information related to seafood products for traceability purposes. Integrated systems are frequently interoperable, meaning “different information technology systems and software applications [can] communicate, exchange data, and use that information” (GFTC, 2014). 

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When traceability systems only track from whom a company purchased or received products to whom they sent them to, it is known as “one up, one down sharing” or “one forward, one back sharing”. Permission-based sharing can involve formal agreements (e.g. non-disclosure agreements) between businesses in the supply chain pertaining to the sharing of more detailed traceability information (e.g. information related to harvest method, location, etc.).  Finally, some firms have commercial transparency, in which traceability information related to their products is freely accessible to the public on their website, or via a consumer-facing application or certification register.

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A PDF of these traceability definitions can be downloaded here.