Despite the growth in plant-based and flexitarian preferences in recent years, global seafood consumption is rising, and with it, consumers want to know the origins of the produce they purchase in the hope that it’s sourced responsibly.

With the global seafood market expected to reach a value of $133.9 billion by 2026, up from $113.2billion in 2020 according to Global Industry Analysts, the challenge now facing industries, investors, governments, and the world is how to meet the surge in demand, whilst reducing overfishing, ensuring high welfare standards and protecting life below water.

By sharing some of the difficulties at play when it comes to seafood supply and highlighting how transparency technology like Authenticate can help to mitigate environmental, social and animal welfare risk in this article, hopefully if we all work together, we can turn the tide of destruction AND continue to consume fish sustainably.

The scale of the problem

In the wake of programmes including Blue Planet and the Netflix documentary Seaspiracy, consumers are more aware of topical and damaging issues prevalent in the aquaculture industry – from overfishing to poor mortality.

Wild fish feeding farmed fish

A new report from Changing Markets Foundation, Feedback, Coalition for Fair Fisheries Arrangements and Western Sahara Resource Watch claims that the rise in seafood consumption is forcing a surge in the use of wild-caught fish for farmed fish feed, arguing this undermines progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

This is also backed up by data from Compassion in World Farming:

Over 69% of fishmeal and 75% of fish oil production used to feed farmed fish derives from wild-caught stock.

Compassion in World Farming

High fish mortality

The same report stresses the unacceptable reality of high fish mortality rates when compared to other forms of industrial farming, raising concerns over farming practices in the aquaculture industry, representing a disconnect between consumer expectations:

4 in 5 adults believing the welfare of fish should be protected to the same extent as the welfare of other animals we eat.

ComRes 2018 Survey

Sea (and investment) levels on the rise

The irrefutable reality of climate change means we’re sadly seeing a continuous rise in sea levels around the world, putting communities and the natural world at risk.

In light of the FAO projection that aquaculture will provide 60% of the world’s fish consumption by 2030, growing significantly from its current share of just over 50%, understandably, the sector has seen rising levels of investment too. Between now and 2030 alone, it is estimated that aquaculture could see investment of $150 – $300 billion according to a study by Encourage Capital and The Nature Conservancy.

In the current climate, many investors and financial institutions fail to have the policies required in place to monitor fish mortality or overfishing risk either directly or in their supply chains, exposing them to significant risks.

65% of investors and financial institutions fail to put in place criteria to ensure no illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing or other compliance failures occur in their portfolio of investments and lending to the aquaculture sector.

The problem to address this outlined by investors lies with a lack of transparency and access to meaningful data back to farm level.

“The aquaculture industry as a whole is lacking in its transparency and reporting of mortalities. Where data is available, it is reported inconsistently and the number of total mortalities is likely to be significantly underestimated. This is an area where the aquaculture industry needs to improve.”

Campaign Manager at Changing Markets Foundation for Food Navigator

Identifying risk in the depths of seafood supply chains

Due to the complexity presented by global seafood supply chains, businesses and investors are increasingly fishing for transparency solutions to identify risk, monitor progress against commitments in the public domain and substantiate claims.

With a range of scalable digital tools to assist retailers, manufacturers and producers, the Authenticate platform is well-placed to provide critical seafood supply chain information with a shoal of digital tools including:

  • Supply Chain Mapping – See the depth of supply chains, all the way down to farm level
  • Certifications – Automate supplier checks against leading assurance schemes including BAP and Global GAP
  • Digital Audits & Assessments – Create bespoke remote audits to benchmark risk by supplier focusing on anything from animal welfare approaches to modern slavery
  • KPIs – Understand performance to identify risk and drive improvements in key areas ranging from lice count to overall mortality by supplier.
  • Dashboards – Dive deep into detailed data or see actionable insights at the surface via interactive, bespoke dashboards and integrations with 3rd parties including Maplecroft and FM Global. Visualise data by tonnage volume, supplier species, location, certification status and much more.

Supporting leading retailers with responsible seafood sourcing

After using the Authenticate platform for over 7 years, stakeholders across various teams from Technical to Ethics and Sustainability at a leading UK retailer have been able to identify risk, improve supplier performance and utilise supply chain data captured through the tiers to collate annual reports and share performance against commitments, including sustainable seafood sourcing.

With real-time dashboards displaying data captured against defined KPIs, they are able to visualise performance linked to animal welfare objectives including sea lice prevalence and mortality at farm level, broken down by supplier and time period.

To discuss how we could help your business with its responsible seafood sourcing objectives too, simply drop us a line to arrange a demo.

For more information on the Authenticate platform or to discuss your challenges and requirements, get in touch with the team.