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As detailed in a 2016 report by Oceana, fraud is a huge problem in the seafood industry. Based on data compiled from 200 studies, the ocean conservation advocacy group found that as much as 20% of seafood is not labelled correctly in the U.S. This mislabeling has wide-reaching consequences on global health, the economy, and conservation efforts. Fortunately, that is set to change, and it’s blockchain technology that we have to thank.
Oceana’s study was limited to retail outlets, including restaurants, sushi venues, and grocery stores, so it’s not known exactly where in the supply chain seafood fraud actually takes place. The seafood mislabeling infractions detailed in the report ranged from the restaurants listing wild salmon but serving a cheaper farmed salmon instead, to sushi chefs purposely mislabeling endangered whale meat as tuna in order to smuggle it into the country.
According to the report, the problem is traceability, and a more detailed and transparent record of information about fish as they move along the supply chain could help decrease instances of mislabeling.
As we know, the core of blockchain technology is simply a secure, transparent way to record transactions, and a number of companies are looking for ways to apply it to the seafood supply chain. In April 2017, Intel showcased how Hyperledger Sawtooth, a platform for creating and managing blockchains, could facilitate seafood supply chain traceability.
The study used IoT connected sensors to track and record information about a fish, such as its location, temperature, and other characteristics as it made the journey from ocean to plate.
More recently, in January of this year, the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) announced their Blockchain Supply Chain Traceability Project. Similar to Intel’s, this project aims to aide the WWF and their partners in cracking down on illegal tuna fishing by recording every step along the supply chain on a blockchain.
“Through blockchain technology, soon a simple scan of tuna packaging using a smartphone app will tell the story of a tuna fish — where and when the fish was caught, by which vessel and fishing method,” WWF-New Zealand CEO Livia Esterhazy said in a press release. “Consumers will have certainty that they’re buying legally-caught, sustainable tuna with no slave labor or oppressive conditions involved.”
The difficulty with making an idea like this a reality — and one that works, is reliable, and trustworthy — is getting everyone along the supply chain to not only agree to a new recording system but properly implement one too. Welcome, Fishcoin.
According to the company’s white paper, Fishcoin is a utility token that creates an incentive for data capture in various forms, beginning with key data elements captured and communicated by fishermen and fish farmers for the purpose of traceability.
How does it work? Fishermen in developing nations send a restaurant or grocery store information on the seafood they caught. This triggers a smart contract that transfers a certain number of Fishcoins into those fisher’s crypto wallets. The fishers can then use those Fishcoins to pay bills or buy cellphone minutes. With an underlying blockchain that records all this information, Fishcoin looks to provide the incentive to make it happen.