Seafood companies call for higher traceability standards

Seafood companies in Canada are calling on the federal government to bolster the standards around the traceability of seafood products across the country.

A group of 26 grocery chains, seafood industry stakeholders, and experts want the government to commit to a timeline and plan to fulfil its mandate to implement boat-to-plate traceability for seafood.

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans is currently studying seafood traceability in Canada as a way to support the sustainability and long-term viability of Canada’s seafood supply chains while combatting fraud, human rights abuses, and illegal fishing.

The letter, signed by a mixture of stores such as Save-On-Foods, suppliers including Ocean Brands and Organic Ocean, and environmental groups SeaChoice and Oceana Canada, was delivered to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency as part of its recent boat-to-plate seafood traceability consultation.

The coalition argues that the minimum standards must be expanded so that all seafood products are fully traceable from the point of final sale back to the point of harvest, including key information about the who, what, where, when, and how of fishing or farming, processing, and distribution.

The signatories highlight their concern that no timeline or plan is currently publicly known around implementing a better traceability system despite the initiative being announced more than two years ago.

Seafood follows a highly complex path from a fishing vessel or fish farm to people’s plates, with a risk of illegal practices, fraud, and mislabelling at every step along the way. Consumers currently have no sure way to know where their seafood came from, how it was caught, if the fish is labelled as the correct species, and whether or not it is not harmful to human health or the health of ocean ecosystems.

According to a YouGov Plc survey commissioned by SeaChoice in November 2021, 86 per cent of Canadians support improved seafood traceability for all products sold in Canada.

Ian Ricketts, president of Ocean Brands, said: “Boat-to-plate traceability of seafood is central to preventing overfishing and illegal fishing. To contribute, we can work together to prevent overfishing by eliminating markets for seafood that are not traceable and likely caught illegally or with forced labour.

“While a lot of work has been done in the past to provide traceability for certain fish species, there is room for more progress to be made to look after our oceans. We look forward to working with our industry partners and associates to achieve full traceability for all seafood sold in Canada.”