Sharing traceability system insights

Created on Tuesday, 05 September 2017

Traceability is a powerful tool for suppliers and consumers alike, so why isn’t it more widespread?

To answer this question, we set out to better understand the challenges that keep seafood supply chains from adopting full-chain traceability.

We’re proud to announce that our findings have been published in the August 2017 issue of the Journal of Food Science, alongside parallel research from our partners in the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation’s Ocean and Seafood Markets Initiative (OSMI): Future of Fish, the Global Food Traceability Center (GFTC), and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Through a series of articles, we lay out the challenges posed by technology tools, specifically the current lack of interoperability between systems. The articles also highlight the opportunities that traceability presents for business, environment, and government, including consumer safety and market differentiation. Our work lays a foundation upon which we can address these challenges and move the seafood sector toward greater traceability adoption.

Click here to learn more about the OSMI partnership.

Welcome Michelle Beritzhoff-Law

Created on Friday, 25 August 2017

Hi FishWise Readers!

I am Michelle Beritzhoff-Law and I joined the FishWise team in August 2017 as a Project Director in the Retail Division.

I grew up in Los Gatos and spent a lot of my childhood in the ocean around Santa Cruz. I’ve been keen on marine science, and particularly fish, since an elementary school field trip to the San Francisco bay. Being on the water, looking at array of fish and plankton was amazing and I was instantly hooked.

Prior to joining FishWise I was an Auditor at MRAG Americas, where I learned more about the seafood supply chain and traceability. I worked for New Zealand’s Ministry of Fisheries and Ministry for Primary Industries, within their respective fisheries science and fisheries management teams and spent some time at sea as an observer. I have a BS in Aquatic Biology from UC Santa Barbara, and an MS in Marine Science from University of Otago in New Zealand. Through my career I’ve developed a passion for fisheries management, working with stakeholders, and developing pragmatic solutions.

I am excited to join the talented team at FishWise and look forward to working with retailers and the wider seafood industry to progress sustainable seafood solutions.

Welcome Arne Croce!

Created on Tuesday, 08 August 2017

Hi FishWise Readers!

I am Arne Croce and I joined the FishWise team in July 2017 as Chief Financial Officer. I was attracted to the organization by the compelling role we play in developing a seafood industry that is environmentally sustainable and socially responsible.

As a Santa Cruz native, I have long had a love for the sea and have fond memories of summer days on local beaches. My seafood experience is two-fold: my father was an avid fisherman and took me on many trips on the ocean and to rivers (at age 10 I caught a 25 lb. Striped Bass!); in high school, I worked as a “pearl diver” (dishwasher!) at a restaurant on the Santa Cruz Wharf.

Prior to joining FishWise I served as executive director of Peninsula Family Service, a human services nonprofit serving low income children, adults, and families on the San Francisco Peninsula. Before transitioning to the nonprofit sector, I had a full career in local government serving as city manager for the cities of San Mateo and Los Altos. I have a master’s degree in Public Administration from California State University Sacramento and a BA in Political Science from University of California Berkeley-Go Bears!

After many years away my wife Carol and I decided it was time to move back to Santa Cruz. We have two adult children and are expecting our first grandchild in September-very exciting! We enjoy travel-our most recent trip was to Scotland where we walked about 50 miles of the Rob Roy Way.

Welcome Leslie Howitt!

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Hello FishWise readers!

I’m Leslie Howitt, and I am very excited to have joined the FishWise team as the Data Project Assistant. I will be working with the Data Team and assisting the rest of FishWise with all of their data needs.

I grew up on the shores of Lake Ontario, and spent as much time as possible in or on the water. On a trip to Acadia National Park when I was 8, I encountered tide pools for the first time. I was mesmerized by the life in these tiny puddles, and became interested in what else lay beneath the ocean’s surface.

I went to Brown University, where I earned a BS in ecology and evolution biology, and Plymouth University in England, where I earned a Masters in Research in marine biology. At both institutions, my research focused on subtidal invertebrates. It wasn’t until I started working at Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch that I began to apply my marine biology experience to fisheries and the field of sustainable seafood.  I look forward to applying the knowledge I gained from Seafood Watch activities to my new position at FishWise.

In my free time, I like to rock-climb, play ultimate Frisbee, surf, read, hike, scuba dive, and bike.

Welcome Michael Abowd!

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Michael joined FishWise as our Data Project Manager, focusing on evolving our custom database applications and reporting tools. He wasn’t always this nerd-like though. The intersection of music and computers fueled what became an infectious career that could only be explained as a fluke.  As a musician, he was an early adopter of the audio software technology, and passionate about reporting software bugs to the manufacturer which eventually got him hired as the Pro Tools audio software Support Manager at AVID Technology.  That’s where he developed his business application and database knowledge which led to him serving as their Global IT Director, overseeing 44 locations around the world. Later, he and his wife relocated to Santa Cruz full-time where he has been assisting various companies like CCOF and Universal Audio with their IT-related projects.

His love of the ocean began with surfing but didn’t really take hold until he witnessed the success of the Monterey Bay becoming a sanctuary.  In the beginning, he never saw whales, dolphin, or otters where they are all common sights today. The transformation was an amazing and powerful example of what a mind shift, backed by action, can do. Enter FishWise!

FishWise Explores Cooperative Traceability

Created on Thursday, 20 July 2017

At the SeaWeb Seafood Summit in June, FishWise – in collaboration with the Global Food Traceability Center (GFTC), Future of Fish, and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) – organized a panel that explored how a cooperative approach to traceability can serve the bottom line for all seafood supply chain actors. Sara Lewis, a Project Director within FishWise’s Traceability Division, moderated the panel “Cooperative Traceability: Pre-Competitive Solutions for Full-Chain Traceability.” Expert panelists Keith Flett from Future of Fish, Eric Enno Tamm from ThisFish, and Thomas Kraft from Norpac Fisheries Export and Insite Solution, brought their own unique perspectives and experience to bear on the topic.

The panel began with an audience poll that revealed a majority of the session’s attendees felt that the largest hurdle to implementing interoperable traceability in seafood supply chains was the difficulty around selecting the right traceability solution. Keith Flett addressed this challenge directly in his presentation – introducing a request for proposal (RFP) process Future of Fish is developing to assist seafood supply chains in finding traceability solutions that meet their needs. This RFP process would help align stakeholders within a given seafood supply chain, define client groups, address data gaps, and assist them in clearly identifying their traceability needs. Technology vendors can then use the RFP information to respond to the needs of that particular client group, and better align technology solutions, cost, and implementation procedures. Future of Fish believes this RFP process could help both technology vendors and supply chain companies make the process of finding the “right” solution less burdensome and result in the selection of better traceability tools.

Next, Eric Enno Tam explained that in many cases the business benefits of traceability need to be clearly identified in order for end-to-end supply chain traceability implementation to be successful. Product data can be extremely valuable if used in the right way, and traceability-enabled data sharing can give companies a competitive advantage. Traceability can help companies save or make money through marketing positive product attributes, risk mitigation, and increasing operational efficiencies—among many other proven benefits. Thomas Kraft, having experience in both seafood distribution and traceability technology, believes electronic data capture should be the main topic of discussion when it comes to traceability. Thomas explained that as companies move away from paper based data systems towards electronic, information will begin to be shared more easily between supply chain members, then naturally improving traceability throughout the industry. He also said that the U.S. Seafood Import Monitoring Program may be the business impetus that moves many seafood companies towards implementing electronic data capture and traceability improvements for the January 1, 2018 compliance date.

An important take away from this session is that improving data sharing and traceability can be a multi-stakeholder process. Companies that work closely with their suppliers towards a collaborative solution which fits the needs of the entire supply chain will see increased business benefits for each member within that supply chain. In preparation for the implementation of the U.S. Seafood Import Monitoring Program, FishWise suggests companies work with their supply chains to ensure that their suppliers are aware of expectations for products, share Key Data Elements throughout the supply chain, and confirm that documentation is available for products that will demonstrate legal harvest and compliance with the relevant fishery management agency.

To learn more about seafood traceability and recommended next steps that businesses can take to improve their traceability, please read our white paper Advancing Traceability in the Seafood Industry: Assessing Challenges and Opportunities.

FishWise at Ceres Conference 2017

Created on Monday, 19 June 2017

From left to right: Panelists Mariah Boyle, Jonas Kron, and Michael Conathan.

In late April, FishWise’s Traceability Division Director Mariah Boyle attended the 2017 Ceres Conference in San Francisco. Bringing together more than 600 investors and company leaders, the two-day conference focuses on corporate sustainability and catalyzing change. Mariah presented at the breakout session Is Your Product Against the Law? Insights on Illegality in Supply Chains that looked at the illegal activity in seafood and forest-related products, the potential human rights abuses that can go hand in hand with such activities, and the attention that is needed at all levels of supply chains to address these issues. Moderated by David Bennell, Program Director for Food & Capital Markets Initiative at Ceres, Mariah was joined by panelists Michael Conathan, Director of Ocean Policy at the Center for American Progress, and Jonas Kron, Senior Vice President and Director of Shareholder Advocacy at Trillium Asset Management.

Bringing her expertise in seafood supply chains, Mariah provided an overview of the different steps within these chains and how this complexity can obscure potential illegal activities and human rights abuses. Some 660 to 820 million people (9-12% of the global population) are dependent on the seafood sector for their livelihoods, according to UN estimates. This, coupled with the fact that seafood is among the most traded food commodities, shows how important it is to improve the legality and sustainability related to seafood.

Fortunately, resources exist for investors and companies that want to tackle these issues. Mariah presented an overview of next steps, including a robust sustainability framework and FishWise’s white papers. The Common Vision for Sustainable Seafood, created by the Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions, is a realistic six-step process to develop and implement a sustainable seafood policy. Additionally, for newcomers and those already invested alike, FishWise’s white papers on social responsibility and traceability in seafood supply chains provide comprehensive guidance on guidance and next steps companies can take to improve their work on these issues.

“It’s obvious from this conference that investors are bearing in mind the environmental, social and governance issues in supply chains,” Mariah said. “Similar to sustainability issues like climate change, we must take a long-term, or multi-generational view, to this topic.”

However, Mariah stresses that waiting to get started is not an option. She suggests that investors engage with companies, ask about the details of their sustainable seafood policies – what their time-bound commitments look like, if they are reporting publicly on progress, and disclosing information about their supply chains. Ask what due diligence measures they have in place to reduce the risk of illegality, and encourage those that are on the right path. Doing so can catalyze further change, and encourage more companies to do the same, working toward a more just, socially and environmentally sustainable future.

FishWise at Surf Market’s 5th Annual Sustainable Seafood Festival

Created on Tuesday, 30 May 2017

In honor of Earth Day on April 22nd, FishWise was grateful to be able to participate once again in Surf Market’s Sustainable Seafood Festival. This was the 5th annual festival for Surf Market, hosted at their charming store in picturesque Gualala. Pronounced “wa-LA-la” and just a daytrip north of San Francisco, this small town is situated on the Sonoma Mendocino Coast and is home to jazz festivals, migrating whales, and numerous resident artists and craftspeople.

FishWise project managers Meg Songer and Traci Linder enjoyed an afternoon fielding many considerate questions regarding sustainable seafood, teaching children about seafood through interactive activities, and inviting passersby to play FishWise’s educationally-themed beanbag toss game ‘cornhole.’ This year, Jennifer Bushman, spokesperson for Verlasso salmon, led a few entertaining and informative cooking demonstrations on how to properly prepare responsibly sourced seafood dishes. FishWisers were even invited by Surf Market’s gracious owner and hosts Steve, Kelly, and Caroline to post-festival celebrations at nearby St. Orres. As always, FishWise is eagerly anticipating our next collaboration with Surf Market.

Since 2006, Surf Market has partnered with FishWise to provide educational materials and sustainable seafood options to their customers. This partnership has allowed Surf Market to strengthen its commitment to sustainability and ocean conservation. The retailer’s annual Sustainable Seafood Festival helps to engage and educate the local community about sustainable seafood options.

Missing at Sea: The Dangers Faced by Fisheries Observers

Created on Thursday, 25 May 2017

PC: Mark Garrison/Hakai Magazine

On September 10th 2015, a Taiwanese fishing vessel conducted a transshipment of tuna to the Panamanian flagged refrigerated vessel MV Victoria, roughly 500 miles off the coast of Peru. The transshipment was being observed by the MV Victoria’s U.S. fisheries observer Keith Davis. A crewman aboard the Taiwanese fishing vessel witnessed Keith Davis observing the transshipment of tuna at roughly 2:50 PM. Ten minutes later Keith Davis couldn’t be found. A search was soon conducted by the MV Victoria, which ended 72 hours later. His body was never found.

Fisheries observers are often cited as a way to verify that fishing is done both ethically and sustainably. However, the significant risk that observers put themselves in when conducting their duties is less well known. Isolated far from shore in international waters and dependent on the crew of the vessel, observers are in a particularly vulnerable positon when they witness a fishing violation that the vessel operator doesn’t want reported. As a result, observers may be pressured, harassed, threatened, or possibly assaulted by vessel operators in order to prevent them from recording illegal activity. In the face of such risks, it is often difficult for observers to act as a safeguard against unsustainable and unethical fishing.

Tragically, threats by fishing vessel operators to observers are sometimes carried out, and many have been murdered or declared missing under mysterious circumstances. The case of Keith Davis is just one of many cases of fisheries observers from around the world who have disappeared under circumstances that most experts would classify as suspicious at a minimum. Keith Davis’s death was all the more shocking as he, along with other observers, had worked tirelessly to highlight the risks that observers face in the line of duty, compiling a list of incidences of threats, assaults, and murder of fisheries observers at sea.

Even when proof exists that a fisheries observer was threatened, assaulted, or even murdered, suspects are rarely prosecuted due to the lack of laws and regulations governing crime aboard fishing vessels operating on the high seas. The case of Keith Davis is sadly no different, with jurisdiction over the disappearance eventually given to the flag state, Panama, who lacked the capacity to conduct a full investigation and concluded that the cause of the tragedy was unknown. Although the crew of the MV Victoria were replaced, none were ever charged with Keith Davis’s disappearance.

To better protect fisheries observers in the face of such threats, many are calling for reform to improve their safety. This can include an independent form of communication (such as a satellite phone) that observers can use to call for assistance, and emergency action plans that establish protocols to assist observers when they feel threatened. One Regional Fisheries Management Organization (RFMO), the Western and Central Pacific Tuna Commission, has enacted some significant necessary reforms and made them mandatory as of early 2017. It is of ever greater importance for all RFMO’s to follow suit and to enact further reforms to protect fisheries observers at sea. Only then can fisheries observers truly fulfill their role of verifying sustainable and ethical fishing, and helping to deter illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing.

While the highlighted case involves a U.S. fisheries observer it is important to be aware that the issue of fisheries observer safety is a global one regardless of nationality. Fishery management plans around the world should take into consideration the safety of fisheries observers and their crucial role in achieving sustainable fishing.

For more information about this event, please read the article “The Mysterious Disappearance of Keith Davis.”

To learn more about reforms that can improve observer safety, see the “Association for Professional Observer’s International Observer Bill of Rights.”

Status of IUU Nations Carded by European Commission

Created on Wednesday, 24 May 2017

As part of FishWise’s ongoing efforts to track news related to illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, we are closely monitoring updates to the European Commission’s IUU watch list.

The European Commission (EC) issues yellow cards and red cards to nations that have not taken sufficient action to control IUU activity in their waters or by their flagged vessels. Yellow cards serve as a formal warning to countries that the Commission wants to see time-bound improvement in their anti-IUU governance, while a red card can include economic sanctions and trade measures. Countries that have been yellow carded have six months to show improved structural and legal reforms to their fisheries management, monitoring, and enforcement systems. If the EC decides a country has made insufficient progress after six months, the country will be given a red card and potentially banned from importing fishery products into the European Union.

Nations with red cards:

  • Cambodia
  • Comoros
  • Saint Vincent & Grenadines


Nations with yellow cards:

  • Kiribati
  • Liberia
  • Saint Kitts & Nevis
  • Sierra Leone
  • Taiwan
  • Thailand
  • Trinidad and Tobego
  • Tuvalu


The following nations were previously carded but have made credible progress in improving their fisheries governance and combatting IUU, and have subsequently been removed from the EC’s IUU watch list:

  • Belize
  • Fiji
  • Ghana
  • Guinea
  • Panama
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Philippines
  • South Korea
  • Sri Lanka
  • Togo
  • Vanuatu
  • Curacao
  • Solomon Islands


For further details about the European Commission’s anti-IUU fishing program, please see the Commission’s news page.