Thai Union, Mars Petcare and USAID Oceans Going Digital for Sustainability

Thai Union Group PCL and Mars Petcare, along with a coalition of other industry and government groups such as the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Oceans and Fisheries Partnership (USAID Oceans), recently launched a digital traceability pilot program. Inmarsat’s “Fleet One” terminals were successfully installed on fishing vessels in Thailand, while the crew members, captains and fleet owners were trained on “Fish Talk” chat applications developed by Xsense that enable them to connect with families and peers around the world while at sea – an industry first for Thai fisheries.

The pilot program will test scalable platforms for electronic Catch Data and Traceability (eCDT) systems that utilize mobile applications and satellite connectivity, making it possible to demonstrate true electronic end-to-end traceability and supply chain management.

More importantly for human rights, the pilot brings with it the ability for the workers on the vessels to use ‘Fish Talk’, a compressed chat function that allows crew to communicate with loved ones back on shore.

The system gives suppliers the ability to:

• Improve efficiency of traceability records validated by fishery managers and manage risk in the supply chain;
• Demonstrate true electronic end-to-end traceability and supply chain management with linkages to markets such as the United States and European Union to better address concerns with IUU fishing and labor issues in fisheries.

The seafood industry has to continue to work to bring full transparency and digital traceability into our supply chain, and this pilot is a major step in the right direction, according to Darian McBain, Thai Union’s group director for sustainable development. “In the long run, traceability will help make the entire fishing industry more sustainable, protecting the environment and workers, while delivering a high-quality products and important nutrition to consumers across the globe,” added McBain.

“We are proud to partner with Thai Union to launch this pilot program. Providing connectivity at sea for workers is a milestone in responsible and ethical sourcing,” said Isabelle Aelvoet, Global Sustainability Director at Mars Petcare. “We know it will contribute to assuring traceability and we are confident it will soon become a standard across entire fishing industry.”

Consumers around the globe want to know where their food comes from and want to have the confidence that it meets the highest quality and sustainability standards.

Traceability – the ability to track a product in granular detail from its place of origin all the way to the consumer – is a key component that benefits producers and consumers by bringing transparency to the entire system.

The challenges and opportunities are particularly acute for the fishing and seafood industry.

Activities that take place at sea are difficult to monitor or supervise. All too often, only those on boats understand the conditions faced and the type of fishing being conducted. This lack of monitoring has led to unacceptable labor and fishing violations, resulting in human rights abuses and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

In many ways, the fishing industry is behind the curve when it comes to applying technologies. The reason is simple: it’s a lot harder to build technology onto a fishing boat and connect it via satellite to the internet than it might be at a farm or factory.

Today, even many of the most ethical and sustainable seafood companies use paper-based systems to track at least part of their supply chain. Any paper-based system lacks efficiency and is susceptible to simple human error.

Fortunately, the fishing industry has evolved significantly, making the unimaginable years ago, now possible.

To read more about Thai Union’s sustainability strategy, visit http://upmedio.wpengine.com.


Photo (above) Caption: Long-beaked common dolphins prey on a bait ball of sardines off the coast of South Africa. © Doug Perrine/SeaPics.com.