Traceability is quickly becoming one of the strongest strategies in the global marketing of sustainably harvested seafood. It is a process that allows transparency and responsibility along all steps of the chain of custody, from ocean to plate, and provides a link between the harvester and the consumer. Consumers are given peace of mind that the product they purchase has been harvested in a responsible manner and they are able to put a face to the product, while harvesters are able to see where their catch is consumed and receive feedback from consumers.
The Fisheries, Science Stewardship and Sustainability Board (FSSSB) implemented the NL Atlantic lobster and halibut traceability program, initiated by the FFAW, in 2011 with a small pilot project involving eight harvesters in Harbour Breton, Burgeo and Cinq Cerfs. In 2014, 266 harvesters were onboard from Lobster Fishing Areas (LFAs) 12, 13, 14A and 14B, with LFA 11 added in 2015. Halibut harvesters in the Gulf region have also been placing traceable tags on their catch. Traceability was incorporated into the Atlantic Halibut Sustainability Plan (AHSP), initiated in 2013, to help harvesters best harvest and market what had previously been a very limited, 24 hour derby fishery. The previous fishery resulted in market gluts, safety concerns, and quota overruns. The new AHSP utilizes monitoring tags to better ensure the resource is harvested sustainably. Harvesters can choose between DFO monitoring tags or using traceability tags to tag their catch.
The AHSP also allows harvesters to choose one of six fishing periods, giving more autonomy on when a harvester prefers to fish, as well as spreading out the catch as it hits the market. This has resulted in a greater return in value to harvesters and a halibut fishery that is sustainable, as well as providing a high quality product to market over an extended period of time.
Lobsters are tagged with a tag attached to a claw band, and halibut are tagged with a gill tag. These tags contain a QR (quick response) code that can be scanned, or a code that can be entered manually to a website. This code provides the consumer with a profile of the harvester who harvested the product, where and when it was landed, as well as gear types and other useful information. The consumer can also leave comments for the harvester. Traces are coming in worldwide, from the United States, United Kingdom, Africa and Europe.
In a global marketplace that now demands increased stewardship in its fish harvesting, we are ensuring Newfoundland and Labrador harvesters are leaders in putting a sustainably harvested, traceable product to market. The 2016 season will bring a new tag design, highlighting the catch as a “Product of Newfoundland Labrador.” Traceable lobster and halibut will also be made readily available at participating restaurants province-wide, so look for the code the next time you sink your teeth into some of the world’s most sustainably harvested, delicious seafood!
For more information on the traceability project, visit www.seafoodnl.ca or contact the FFAW office in St. John's:
T: (709) 576-7276
F: (709) 576-1521