Combating IUU fishing through improved traceability – A report from two events hosted by the EU IUU Fishing Coalition at the Seafood Expo Global 2023

Date: May 2, 2023

On April 26 and 27, 2023, the EU IUU Fishing Coalition hosted two sessions at Seafood Expo Global, the world’s largest gathering of seafood industry and retailers. The interactive sessions brought together governments, industry representatives and NGOs to speak about tools and best practices to strengthen seafood traceability and align global import control schemes to ensure global seafood supply chains are free of products coming from illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Robust Traceability and Transparency in the Seafood Supply Chain: Key Tools and Benefits

On Wednesday the 26th of April, the EU IUU Fishing Coalition hosted a session on “Robust Traceability and Transparency in the Seafood Supply Chain: Key Tools and Benefits” which examined how robust traceability and transparency in the seafood industry is vital in the fight against IUU fishing. The session was an opportunity for experts to present the various tools and initiatives businesses can use to minimise the risks of IUU fishing products entering their supply chains, discuss how these tools can be improved, and suggest ways to better transfer these learnings to other geographies and markets.

The Importance of Seafood Traceability for Business

Francois Mosnier, Head of the Oceans team at Planet Tracker, discussed the financial benefits of investing in seafood supply chain traceability, detailing a recent study on Carrefour showing that overfished species have lower profit margins compared to those selling better managed species with more transparent supply chains. Interestingly, disclosing details of its seafood supply chain (e.g. on the Ocean Disclosure Project) would generate net financial benefits for Carrefour equal to 3% of its estimated gross profit on seafood in France. Supporting initiatives on seafood traceability (e.g. Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceability) could also be monetised. This shows once more how better sustainability practices could improve financial returns.

“The global seafood industry is a $1.8 trillion business with only a 4% profit margin. Proper traceability could increase profits in the seafood global supply chain by 60% – this is driven by a reduction in food recall, food waste and wasted staff time”

Francois Mosnier, Planet Tracker

Due Diligence in the Seafood Supply Chain

Huw Thomas, serving as the Executive Director of 3 Pillars Seafood, a seafood consultancy firm, discussed the importance of due diligence in the seafood supply chain, specifically through tools such as PAS1550. PAS1550 is a voluntary code of practice developed collaboratively by seafood industry representatives and members of the EU IUU Fishing Coalition to guide industry in assessing and cutting out IUU fishing and related risks in their supply chains. PAS1550 relies on various market controls, robust data collection on vessels and operations, full supply chain traceability, and verification of data through monitoring, control, and surveillance (MCS) tools, such as log books and remote electronic monitoring (REM).

“IUU risk assessments including labour right risk assessment are a journey for businesses [as well] due diligence is a journey – the 1st step is genuinely the hardest”

Huw Thomas, 3 Pillars Seafood

Supply chain due diligence tools like PAS1550 provide a roadmap to help identify IUU fishing products at their source and are increasing in relevance and scope. Representing Pescados Basiliso, Sara Carral Irijoa, Environmental, Food Security and Quality Manager, highlighted the company’s experience with implementing the tools and best practices of PAS1550 to establish due diligence and traceability of their products. Sara detailed the benefits of PAS1550 implementation for the company, including an understanding of how combating IUU fishing can help preserve marine biodiversity and expand profits and explaining how PAS1550 has expanded the company’s network and expertise with industry and organisations working to ensure seafood traceability.

“Our motivation for working with PAS was to guarantee the traceability of our products. PAS has been valuable for our company – We intend to keep working with the PAS going into the future”

Sara Carral Irijoa, Pescados Basiliso

In addition to combating IUU fishing products from entering markets and supply chains, Julia Black, Group Ethics & Social Sustainability Senior Manager at Hilton Foods and Chair of the Seafood Ethics Action Alliance (SEA Alliance) Steering Committee, discussed best practices and tools Hilton Foods and partner retailers and seafood businesses have been using to ensure human rights due diligence along the supply chain. Julia detailed how the creation of a common risk assessment for source fisheries, trainings on human rights and labour standards, and multi-stakeholder inputs can reduce the risks of human rights and labour abuses throughout the seafood supply chain.

“Many businesses find themselves in the situation where they don’t own the vessels or processing centres, so collaboration with our partners is fundamental to improve transparency in the seafood supply chain”

Julia Black, Hilton Foods

Import Control Schemes: Importance and Benefits of Global Harmonisation

On Thursday the 27th of April, the EU IUU Fishing Coalition hosted a session on “Import Control Schemes: Importance and Benefits of Global Harmonisation.” Moderated by Adriana Fabra, Independent Advisor, Ocean Law and Politics, the panel examined the import control schemes of the European Union, United States, and Japan and discussed existing challenges to their full implementation and the benefits of securing international alignment of such schemes, including through the information required by markets (Key Data Elements) to establish interoperable control systems and robust baselines that keep IUU products out of key markets.

Strengthening, Harmonisation, and Digitisation of Catch Documentation Schemes

The EU IUU Fishing Coalition has been working with governments, markets and NGO partners to facilitate the harmonisation and digitisation of global catch documentation schemes to combat IUU fishing around the world. Throughout the session, our panel of experts discussed key data elements (data fields) required by different markets to ensure the legality and traceability of seafood products at all stages along the supply chain. Katy Hldaki, Senior Officer Markets in International Fisheries of The Pew Charitable Trusts, spoke to this, highlighting how market states and RFMO schemes alignment can decrease the financial and administrative burden on governments when implementing import and control measures, ultimately strengthening IUU prevention measures.

“Increasing harmonisation and digitalisation can really drive down the costs of implementation both for authorities and businesses. This can also provide more resources for identification and checks, that are vital for stopping IUU entering the market”

Katy Hladki, The Pew Charitable Trusts

Bernard O’Donovan, National Director, Trade Compliance and Internal Audit, Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA), Ireland, detailed Ireland’s experience with the EU’s catch documentation scheme and what Irish authorities experience in implementing the import control system, especially in the face of significant increases of the number of catch certificates presented from third countries. Specifically, Bernard highlighted the challenges of importing seafood products from the United Kingdom, which accounts for the majority of direct landings into Irish ports, following Brexit. This session discussed how integrated risk analyses and digitisation, as well as interoperable frameworks, will play a key role in protecting market states from IUU fishing.

“On an EU level we need to enhance risk-based controls and we need to get better at risk assessment – digitisation will really give us the edge in identifying high risk imports”

Bernard O’Donovan, Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority, Ireland

Bruno Morin, European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) working in the Project “Improved regional fisheries governance in western Africa (PESCAO)”, presented the PESCAO project’s mission “to enhance the contribution of fisheries resources to sustainable development, food security and poverty alleviation in West Africa” and spoke about the EFCA’s efforts to improve fisheries controls through the project. Detailing three key components of the project – regional governance, policy and coordination; MCS and combating IUU fishing; and capacity development and resource management – Bruno discussed how the project uses the EU Catch Certificate Scheme, and the FAO Agreement of Port State Measures (PSMA), as a model to promote seafood traceability.

In West Africa, we need to have a regional approach to fighting IUU fishing. We need to develop the capability for west African states to export to Europe – we have developed a programme which has trained 48 officials in how to comply with the EU Catch Certification Scheme”

Bruno Morin, European Fisheries Control Agency

Wakao Hanaoka, CEO and Founder of Seafood Legacy and founding member of the Anti-IUU fishing Forum Japan, expanded on the session’s discussion by introducing Japan’s new import control rules and catch documentation scheme, the Domestic Trade of Specific Marine Animals and Plants Act. Established in 2020 and enforced as of December 2022, the Act looks to the EU catch certificate and KDE requirements as a model to better regulate the import of key species. In this session, Wakao described how verification, digitisation, and harmonisation of global schemes will improve Japan’s implementation and future strengthening of its new import control scheme.

“It is estimated that 24-36% of imports to Japan are at risk of being from IUU sources. Companies in Japan do not want IUU in their supply chains but find it hard to fulfil all traceability requirements themselves – the new Japanese anti IUU fishing regulation and its expansion of target species has been welcome and is a positive step which needs to be expanded to more species

Wakao Hanaoka, Seafood Legacy

Resources from the EU IUU Fishing Coalition 

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