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Marine Stewardship Council Develops a New Chain-of-Custody Monitor

Jan Lee headshotWords by Jan Lee
Energy & Environment
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The seafood industry is truly a global business. More than 150 million tons of seafood hit the markets each year across the globe. According to the Marine Stewardship Council, a full half of that seafood was traded by developing nations. And although the U.S. and Canada are major purveyors of the world's seafood market, their laws governing sustainable fishing methods don't control how seafood is harvested by companies and contractors in those developing countries.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, 85 percent of the world's fisheries are already at the brink of overfishing. "Pollution, poorly planned development and the effects of climate change have also contributed to the degradation of the underwater environment," says the WWF, which like the MSC has been sounding the alarm for more oversight, better fishing methods and increased habitat conservation in an effort to protect endangered and threatened species and fish stocks

There have been various strategies developed over the years to this end. Last year we reported on the efforts of Monterey Bay's Seafood Watch Program to give consumers a more informative tool for selecting sustainably-fished products. Its products guide and downloadable app serve as one answer for consumers who want a better peek into the industry's impact on the world's oceans.

The MSC is also working on that concept -- only from a different angle.

"Over the past two years we have been piloting a new traceability tool, the MSC Online Transaction Solution (MOTS)." The tool will be the first of its kind, designed to "securely handle and verify information about seafood supply chain transactions on a global scale." Its job will be to cross-check seafood transactions within the supply chain, adding more accountability into the fishing and sale of the world's ocean stocks.

Last week the MSC reached out to industry stakeholders asking for feedback on the new tool so it can determine whether the tool would be applicable for the entire program. The tool has already been piloted with 22 companies in China and the European Union, and the MSC invites a final round of industry members’ feedback before the broader roll-out. If successful, some 3,000 supply companies in 60 countries that handle ecolabel-certified products will employ the new tool in 34,000 locations around the world.

The organization targeted 2017 for a voluntary roll-out date for the MOTS and a potential mandatory roll-out of 2018. It is also focused on raising the number of fisheries and farms signed up on its certification program.  Currently 250 fisheries are signed up; the organization hopes to raise that number to 1,000 by the end of the decade. According to MSC, DNA testing of samples show that "99 percent of MSC-labeled products are correctly labeled, demonstrating the integrity of the current system." The new MOTS tool is being designed to work in concert with MSC's ongoing chain-of-custody program.

The MOTS tool is open for public consultation until Sept. 2. You can review information on the project and anticipated roll-out schedule on the MOTS program page.

Images: Maritime Stewardship Council Benelux

Jan Lee headshotJan Lee

Jan Lee is a former news editor and award-winning editorial writer whose non-fiction and fiction have been published in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the U.K. and Australia. Her articles and posts can be found on TriplePundit, JustMeans, and her blog, The Multicultural Jew, as well as other publications. She currently splits her residence between the city of Vancouver, British Columbia and the rural farmlands of Idaho.

Read more stories by Jan Lee