My name is Caroline Ferguson, and I’m joining the FishWise team as a Project Manager for our Safeway partnership. I work with suppliers, distributors, and producers to deliver sustainable seafood products to consumers. I also help identify organizations making positive change in the seafood industry for the Sea Pact and RSVP (Responsible Sourcing Vendor Partner Program) grantmaking processes.
My passion for marine conservation developed at an early age, when my parents let me watch too much Shark Week. I learned about shark finning and other challenges facing marine organisms, and in the second grade I organized my first petition for the ocean (not that anyone in my classroom in Arkansas was eating shark fin soup). When I moved to California for high school, I quickly became involved in organizing beach clean-ups and campaigning to ban the plastic bag. I volunteered at the local aquarium, where I had the opportunity to engage with families from across the country about marine conservation and sustainable lifestyles.
At Stanford, I earned a B.A. and an M.S. in Marine Conservation, and I became interested in solutions to overfishing and unsustainable aquaculture practices that would benefit both ocean ecosystems and fishing communities. A few folks from FishWise visited my classroom during my sophomore year, and I was inspired by the impact a small group could have on an international industry. I am thrilled to learn from this team of motivated, passionate, creative problem solvers.
Other interesting facts about Caroline:
- When I was 15, I was in a girl band.
- I have visited all seven continents.
- My favorite animal is the great white shark, and one of the best days of my life was getting to see one at the Monterey Bay Aquarium!
FishWise retail partner Target has released its 2014 Corporate Social Responsibility Report, outlining progress in seafood sustainability, among other achievements. The report details how, in partnership with FishWise, Target is on track to meet its goal to ensure that their fresh and frozen seafood selection is 100 percent sustainable and traceable, or in a credible, time-bound improvement process, by the end of 2015. See the graphic below for Target's recent progress. In addition the report stated:
"Not only are we on track to meet this overall goal, but all of the seafood in our owned-brand product assortment is expected to meet it even sooner, by late summer of 2015. We realize our work doesn’t end when this goal is met—and we understand that the best solutions will come from working closely with others in the industry."
You can download the full report here (PDF).
Traceability systems are becoming increasingly comprehensive within the seafood industry, causing many firms to wonder how traceability improvements might affect the performance of their businesses. The Global Food Traceability Center (GFTC) sought to answer these questions and conducted a year-long survey to evaluate business performance related to traceability systems along the entire seafood supply chain.
The project had two main components. First, the team conducted interviews with individuals working in 48 different businesses within nine global supply chains. Second, the team evaluated whether traceability played a role in consumer perceptions and purchasing habits by looking at seafood purchasing trends in markets across Canada, China, Germany, The Netherlands, and the United States.
To assist businesses in identifying the potential benefits of their traceability system, the team developed an online software tool that calculates the return on investment of the platform. The tool allowed the firms surveyed to evaluate various attributes of their traceability systems and is currently available to the public.
- Traceability systems that have been used to monitor operations on a larger scale, such as identifying inefficient practices, have been positive for business performance and competitiveness.
- Companies that collaborate with suppliers and consumers tend to value traceability much more than firms with less cooperative cultures.
- Among firms that initially approached traceability with hesitancy, 75% changed their opinion from a negative to positive view after system implementation.
- Smaller businesses tend to see the benefits of traceability systems faster than larger firms.
Though traditional benefits of traceability were limited to food safety procedures, modern traceability systems can be used to take firms beyond regulation compliance and improve production, inventory, marketing, procurement, and public relations. Other benefits of incorporating a strategic perspective of traceability systems include:
- Greater confidence in decision-making
- Decreasing waste
- Reducing working capital by managing inventory more efficiently
- Authenticating sustainability and source claims
- Increased competitive advantage by identifying and accessing new markets
- Improved demonstration of accountability for high quality seafood
While overall the study highlighted the benefits of traceability systems, it also revealed some common challenges, such as cost, the lack of harmonized standards, and difficulty implementing interoperability between systems.
The study of consumer perceptions found that customers were primarily concerned with freshness of seafood products but they did also value the verification of seafood sustainability. While transparency remains an important factor for consumers, using traceability to verify sustainable seafood is a market opportunity for retailers.
The Combined IUU Vessel List maintained by Trygg Mat Tracking (TMT) is a comprehensive source of information available about listed illegal fishing vessels, and it has recently been expanded to include even more sources.
The updated list includes information compiled from the nine Regional Fishery Management Organizations (RFMOs) that have listed fishing vessels that have been identified in the past and present as participating in Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing. Additionally, vessels subject to Interpol “Purple Notices” are also listed. The RFMO and Interpol data is supplemented with information from online commercial maritime databases, from coastal, flag and port States, and from intelligence gathered from TMT field operations.
To assist users with vessel identification, the list provides data about the vessel’s size and characteristics, IMO number, name, and flag. When available, information is also provided on ownership history, flag history, previous names, its international radio call sign (IRCS) and even photos of the vessel. Where possible up to date information about vessel position and operational status is also provided. Information about vessels that have been de-listed (from an IUU vessel list) is also searchable.
Given the globalized nature of fishery supply chains, the Combined IUU Vessel List provides managers and other interested parties with vital information about fishing vessels that have been officially recognized as engaged in IUU fishing. The list incentivizes improvements via transparency, allowing interested parties to search vessel histories in a single database.
The Global Food Traceability Center (GFTC) has developed a new Seafood Consumer Preference Tool that seafood businesses can use at no cost to learn more about how various traceability-related factors affect consumer preference for different types of seafood.
Right now the tool is limited to three commercial species (Shrimp/Prawns, Tuna, and Salmon) and five markets (USA, Netherlands, Germany, Canada, and China), but it could be expanded to include more products and markets in the future.
How it works:
The simple spreadsheet interface allows users to select the appropriate fields for their products: packaging (“fresh/frozen” or “canned”), production method (“farmed” or “wild”), critical dates verification (e.g. best before date), sustainability verification (e.g. certification status), and price information.
After the information for up to four products is entered, the tool uses information collected with GFTC consumer surveys to produces tables and figures that plot the expected consumer preferences among those products. The relative importance to consumers of each product attribute (e.g. price, sustainability) is plotted, allowing users to see which factors influence customer choice the most.
Much like the GFTC’s Seafood Traceability Financial Tool these consumer preference data can provides businesses with tailored information about the potential payoffs of improved traceability.