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Implementing electronic traceability - the journey of Anova Food USA and the Indonesian handline tuna fishery

This is the second of a three-part blog series by IPNLF and its Member, Anova Food USA. It tells the story of Anova's North Buru handline fishery and its journey towards Fair Trade certification and MSC full assessment, which started in February 2019. In this post, Anova describes the traceability journey in supporting socio-economic and environmental improvements in the Indonesian handline yellowfin tuna fishery

Anova’s traceability journey with the Indonesian handline yellowfin tuna fishery started in 2002 when HACCP became a requirement for all food companies in the United States. Since then, Anova has been working collaboratively with suppliers to ensure that strict traceability and food safety standards are met by sending its own quality control staff and food safety experts to processing plants and support improvements when needed. In 2009, Anova also established the PT. Seafood Inspection Laboratory (BASIL) to ensure that all exported seafood shipments meet the highest quality standards.

In 2011, Anova took a leadership role in the Fishery Improvement Project (FIP) for the handline tuna fishery, working with USAID IMACS to hire enumerators to collect catch and port sampling data in remote landing sites. Anova’s data collection work led to its involvement in several projects to develop, pilot and implement innovative information systems for small-scale tuna fisheries.  

The first of these projects were in partnership with Wageningen University and MDPI, namely the BESTTuna and IFITT (Improving Fisheries Information and Traceability for Tuna), which respectively focused on collecting data compatible with scientific requirements to assess the sustainability of tuna stocks and helping supply chain actors provide information on their fishing and processing activities. 

It quickly became evident that paper-based traceability was too slow for today’s increasing informational needs. As a result, in 2015, the NWO project – Technology innovations towards sustainability in Indonesia’s tuna supply chains – was set up under IFITT as a partnership between Anova, Wageningen University, Bogor Agricultural University, MDPI and PT. Harta Samudra to pilot four traceability and information technologies that are affordable for small-scale fisheries supply chains (Spot TraceOurFish ApplicationDOCK application and Tally-O). 

Reliable and accurate data

These information technologies support both environmental and social economic improvements. By capturing port-sampling data electronically, the data is more accurate and less subject to human error.  This means:

  1. Better fisheries data for science-based management 

  2. The operations and catch of small-scale fishermen are integrated in the government’s fisheries database and thus considered in decision-making processes 

  3. Small-scale fishermen can prove to markets and regulators that their operations are Legal, Regulated and Reported (LRR) and meet the then upcoming US SIMP regulation (enforced in January 2018) thus ensuring that they maintain their access to the lucrative export market and secure their livelihood

  4. The traceability system put in place helps the supply chain meet the Fair Trade USA’s chain of custody standard, essential to becoming certified and ensuring that the Fair Trade Premium received by the communities is calculated correctly 

  5. The traceability system in place will also help obtain the MSC’s Chain of Custody certification which the supply chain will need to obtain if the ongoing MSC full assessment is successful 

Lessons learned and expansion

The NWO project ended in 2017, but Anova did not stop there. Those projects not only proved that electronic traceability can be achieved in remote small-scale fisheries, but also resulted in many lessons learned. It also built capacity in Anova supply chains and MDPI to improve and expand traceability technologies to more supply chains. This is why when the USAID Oceans project was kicked-off in 2017, MDPI, Anova and its supply chains were chosen as partners to further implement and develop electronic traceability and catch documentation (eCDT) in Indonesia and the Asia Pacific Region. This project led to two improved traceability technologies: TraceTales which was developed by MDPI and Trafiz

Afterwards, using the TraceTales platform, Anova and its parent company Bumble Bee partnered with SAP in October 2018 to implement blockchain technology. The integration of blockchain with the TraceTales system ensures that data is tamper-proof as it flows downstream from the processing units, preventing any risk of mislabelling. Again, this allows Anova’s supply chains to maintain market access through visible commitments to combat Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) sourced seafood entering supply chains and also the mislabelling of products. 

IPNLF’s Indonesia commitment

An estimated 64 million people live within 10 kilometres of Indonesia’s coastline. Fishing is a mainstay of the economy, while catching tuna one-by-one has always been a way of life for many of its coastal communities. Once this is carefully managed, these small-scale tuna fisheries will bring far-reaching benefits to their communities, many of which are heavily reliant on these traditional fishing methods for employment, income, a source of essential protein and wellbeing. As such, IPNLF continues to bring industry, government and scientists closer together to ensure the sector’s ecological, social and economic viability.

From our experiences on the ground, and relationships with the local community, we know that Indonesia’s fisheries are environmentally and socially responsible, but historically the data to evidence this has been lacking. As a remedy, we have been focusing on enhancing data collection activities through onboard observers, time-lapse cameras, vessel trackers and portside enumerators. Having definitive numbers that track the actual fishing effort and being able to measure the impact of these activities, provide transparency and add value to the tuna harvest. This important data is also shared with provincial and international governments to inform their decision making processes.