Over the past few decades, the seafood space has welcomed several standards geared towards protecting marine environments and species – predominantly through the adoption of responsible practices and sustainable sourcing policies. These endeavours, paired with an incredibly diverse offering of aquatic products for human consumption, have enabled today’s supply chains to provide billions of people with a large proportion of their healthy protein intake, while also offering livelihoods to millions of workers worldwide.
In more recent times, recognising that such standards can only go so far, particularly in terms of planetary and socio-economic wellbeing, a growing number of seafood players have also sought alignment with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Launched in 2015 and agreed to by some 193 nations, the 17 SDGs are a set of targets aimed at, amongst other things, eradicating poverty and deprivation, growing economies, protecting the environment, advancing peace and promoting good governance by 2030.
Accelerating positive change
Fish and shellfish products are by far the world’s most traded animal proteins in value terms. Because the trade in these goods can have a positive effect on food security, both through greater availability for human consumption and through the higher incomes generated, it’s been widely noted that seafood can be an increasingly important contributor to many of the SDGs. Of particular relevance are the goals Zero Hunger (SDG 2), Good Health and Wellbeing (SDG 3), Gender Equality (SDG 5), Responsible Consumption and Production (SDG 12), Climate Action (SDG 13), and, of course, Life Below Water (SDG 14), which aims to conserve and sustainably use oceans, seas and marine resources.
For seafood businesses, the SDGs provide an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to a healthy and productive planet; showing that they’re looking at but also beyond industry good practice norms and what’s happening in and on the water by ensuring many of these other elements are integrated into the broader sustainability picture.
Traceability has a significant role to play in these SDG contributions. Being able to evidence every step in what are complicated supply chains, and then making these actions transparent, can drive even more responsible practices and efforts for the sustainable development of the seafood category. This in turn will help accelerate the goals’ overall progress.
Establishing stronger connections
Besides being a means for socially conscious and responsible enterprises to self-check that due diligence has been undertaken in their current operations, and giving them scope to quickly intervene when necessary, traceability is also a tool through which seafood processors and buyers can better distinguish the good from the not-so-good, such as overfished fisheries, or poorly managed fish farms.
Further to this, and again meeting certain SDG targets, it offers them the platform to cast their raw material sourcing nets much wider – extending to other, perhaps smaller-scale or more remote fisheries and aquaculture ventures – and elevating them into a much more market-secure position in the process.
It’s also crucial to bear in mind that from a consumer perspective, while labelling and standards have been key for connecting people with products, increasing the transparency and traceability of food production along the supply chain not only takes care of many of their other food safety, quality and provenance concerns, it can potentially lead to much greater trust of their seafood suppliers and brands. In this time of ebbing consumer loyalty, such status is priceless.