Using Data to Source Tuna Responsibly 

Created on Monday, 04 November 2019

How do we ensure that the seafood we love is both environmentally and socially responsible? At FishWise, we analyze our business partners’ seafood data to help answer this question so that our partners’ customers can feel good about the seafood they are buying. We rely on comprehensive data collection and supply chain mapping to better understand our partners’ seafood supply. With enough data, we support businesses in making informed decisions about the seafood they source and sell.

According to NOAA Fisheries estimates, the United States imports more than 80 percent of the seafood we eat, which means that our business partners rarely purchase directly from local sources. Globally, wild and farmed seafood supply chains are most often complicated, involving many handlers before the seafood reaches our dinner plate. To help businesses source ocean-friendly and ethical seafood in this complex world, FishWise developed an online vendor survey with powerful behind-the-scenes data analytics to create more transparency across seafood supply chains.

In the past year, FishWise has expanded our data collection to include information about at-sea transshipment, which is especially important for species like tuna that are often caught remotely and are fast-tracked to market through transshipment practices. This is vitally important information since transshipment (transferring fish from one boat or ship to another) allows for extended periods of time at sea and increased risks of illegal fishing and human rights abuses. 

Understanding the kinds of at-sea transshipment data that are available and how that data is transferred along the supply chain is key to uncovering meaningful supply chain information. This requires carefully choosing data elements that don’t burden vendors with too many requests, while also ensuring that the data entry seamlessly integrates into the designed workflow. Our team engineered the process so that when we assess the data, we can generate a report that reveals at-sea transshipment risk for tuna products being sourced. We are layering this at-sea transshipment data on top of provenance (place of origin) information. Through this comprehensive approach, we have gained analytical power and are able to provide specific recommendations to improve suppliers’ at-sea transshipment practices or reward them for following best practices.

The at-sea transfer of tuna in the Western Central Pacific has been significantly underreported but this is the region where the U.S. sources the majority of its tuna. Addressing monitoring and transparency is the main recommendation to solve this discrepancy. Given the risks of illegal activities, and the importance of corporate action, corporate leaders like our partner Hy-Vee have included best practices for at-sea transshipment into their company policies. We are proud that Hy-Vee’s policy includes key components to improve monitoring and transparency, worker protections, and oversight by fishery management organizations. The data collected in our online vendor survey enables FishWise to help Hy-Vee meet its goals.

Moving forward, our data team is inspired to develop and share more solutions that have the power to advance practices for both environmental sustainability and social well-being of the fisher people. We are continuously grateful to our vendors for their efforts to provide in-depth data. This is a win-win-win for everyone – our business partners, their customers, the invaluable workers across the supply chains, and, of course, the oceans!