9 July 2022
TRANSPARENCY TECHNOLOGY TRACING FISH FROM BAIT TO PLATE IN FIJIAN TUNA INDUSTRY
By WWF-Australia CEO, Dermot O'Gorman
Today marked the start of the Pacific Islands Forum leaders meeting in Suva, Fiji.
On the agenda is the all-important 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent, which seeks to develop a long-term vision for securing the regions people, places, and potential.
Pacific leaders are determined to build a strong and resilient Pacific and recognise the need to do this in a way that ensures social, cultural, environmental, and economic integrity.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the region’s tuna fisheries.
More than 60% of the world’s tuna comes from the Pacific. Tuna fisheries are estimated to be worth $5-7 billion annually to Pacific Island economies and form part of the rich cultural fabric of many Pacific societies.
Pacific Island governments, with support from fisheries groups and aid agencies, have been working for decades to improve the sustainability of these tuna fisheries and ensure they are being managed in a socially responsible way. Considerable progress has been made in the past 20 years but there is more to do.
This is made ever more obvious given we live in a disrupted world that is changing fast.
The Blue Pacific is on the frontline of that disruption, with climate change literally changing tuna migration patterns in ways that can impact the long-term security of these valuable natural resources.
New technologies – like blockchain and Artificial Intelligence (AI) – are also fundamentally changing the way we think about and can influence supply chains.
Solander Pacific, WWF Pacific and OpenSC team members outside the Solander Office at the Suva port. Left to right: Radhika Kumar (Solander), Solomone Rokotuiveikau (Solander), Joe Peters (Solander), Adriu Iene (WWF Pac), Lily Lunday (OpenSC), Pierre Wittorski (OpenSC), Tim Baker (OpenSC)
In 2018, a WWF innovation project pilot tested the first ever use of blockchain to track the journey of Albacore tuna within the Fiji supply chain. This technology and process became OpenSC, a platform that has now been successfully implemented for verifying and tracing Patagonian toothfish caught in the Southern Ocean to market.
While the COVID-19 pandemic hit Fiji’s domestic tuna fleets hard and triggered major supply chain disruptions, Fiji’s tuna industry and fisheries department has continued to work with WWF and OpenSC to validate the use of this technology on its fishing boats. The ultimate goal is to track Fijian caught Albacore tuna to markets in the EU and US – a bait to plate traceability solution.
At a WWF-led symposium last November, Fiji’s Fisheries Minister opened proceeding by emphasising the importance of tuna traceability and technology to Fijian fisheries. Continued commitment from Fiji’s tuna industry is not only helping build capacity and understanding among local stakeholders of this innovative solution, but also now helping move this solution to scale regionally.
The OpenSC team is on the ground in Suva this week, working with fishing company Solander Pacific to implement its solution for longline caught tuna.
The application of this transparency technology will enable the company, and the whole Fijian tuna industry, to prove that its fish have been caught legally and responsibly and allow consumers to trace individual fish from bait to plate.
It’s an initiative that has the potential to deliver ecological and socio-economic benefits and add value to Fiji’s tuna industry.
And the team in Suva believe this is only the beginning. With the right investment, there is enormous opportunity to expand this solution to include more longline vessels in Fiji and other Pacific Island countries.
As leaders meet in Suva and reflect on shared actions to protect and secure Pacific people, place and prospects, this initiative is a great example of Pacific leadership that has potential to scale across the Blue Pacific Continent.
OpenSC and WWF Pacific team members at Suva port. Left to right: Tim Baker (OpenSC), Lily Lunday (OpenSC), Pierre Wittorski (OpenSC), Adriu Iene (WWF Pacific)