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Above photo (L-R): Brett “Blu” Heywood, SeaQuest Fiji CEO; Dermot O'Gorman, WWF-Australia CEO; and Ken Katafono, TraSeable Solutions CEO next to a yellowfin tuna about to be tagged with QR code. Fiji waters, December 2017 (© WWF-Australia / Shiri Ram)

Above photo (L-R): Brett “Blu” Heywood, SeaQuest Fiji CEO; Dermot O'Gorman, WWF-Australia CEO; and Ken Katafono, TraSeable Solutions CEO next to a yellowfin tuna about to be tagged with QR code. Fiji waters, December 2017 (© WWF-Australia / Shiri Ram)

WWF seeks to use blockchain for countering illegal fishing and slave labour in Pacific tuna industry

Global environmental protection organisation, WWF is introducing blockchain technology to the Pacific Islands’ tuna industry to help tackle illegal fishing and human rights abuses.

The Blockchain Supply Chain Traceability Project is using digital technology in the fresh and frozen tuna sectors of the Western and Central Pacific region to strengthen supply chain management by tracking fish from vessel to the supermarket.

WWF-New Zealand, WWF-Australia, and WWF-Fiji have teamed up with leading blockchain developer, ConsenSys; Fijian Tech startup, TraSeable, and tuna fishing and processing company, Sea Quest Fiji Ltd. to deliver the project in Fiji. The project will test the use of Viant, which was built as an asset- and domain-agnostic platform, in the Pacific tuna industry.

The buying and selling of Pacific tuna is currently either tracked by paper records, or not at all. Now fishermen can register their catch on the blockchain through radio-frequency identification (RFID) e-tagging and scanning fish.

By leveraging blockchain technology, which provides a digital, tamper-proof record of information accessible to everyone, consumers can have certainty that they’re buying legally-caught, sustainable tuna with no slave labour or oppressive conditions involved. A simple scan of tuna packaging using a smartphone app will provide information on when and where the fish was caught, by which vessel and fishing method.

Steps are currently underway to find a retailer to partner in the project and use blockchain to complete the tuna’s traceability story. 

 WWF-New Zealand CEO, Livia Esterhazy, said, “We are so excited that WWF-New Zealand is a Blockchain project partner. This innovative project has the potential to really improve people’s lives and protect the environment though smart, sustainable fisheries.” 

 “For years, there have been disturbing reports that consumers may have unknowingly bought tuna from illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and, even worse, from operators who use slave labour.” “This is about helping people understand exactly where their food comes from – telling the story about the fish, the fisherman, the families, the crew – the path from ocean to plate,” Ms. Esterhazy added.

“We are thrilled to be working with WWF and Sea Quest Fiji on this project, as ConsenSys has a keen interest in supporting applications of blockchain that offer an opportunity for social impact and doing good in the world,” said Tyler Mulvihill, Co-Founder and Global Business Development, Viant.io.

Brett “Blu” Haywood, the CEO of Sea Quest Fiji, commented, “Sustainable fishing ensures the longevity of the fishing business, and Sea Quest wants to see sustainable fishing in the region. This blockchain project with the three WWF offices certainly gives the industry the best opportunity going forward.” CEO of TraSeable, Ken Katafono, said, “I am very excited to be part of this project, which I’m sure will lead the transformation of seafood supply chain traceability in the Pacific and potentially around the world”.

Blockchain technology could potentially play a key role in food supply chains, helping ensure safety, providing origin traceability and enabling customers to verify classifications, such as “organic” or “halal”. This includes the fishing industry, which is threated by illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Several tuna populations are subject to overfishing or are classified as overfished. Last year, the Tuna 2020 Traceability Declaration was launched at the United Nation’s first global Ocean Conference. It is a non-legally binding declaration endorsed by leaders of the world’s biggest retailers, tuna processors, marketers, traders and/or harvesters, with the support of influential civil society organizations, and governments. It is in line with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14.4, which aims to end overfishing, IUU fishing. 

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