International day of the Mediterranean Sea: the blockchain to defend fish stocks

After the documentary Seaspiracy shed light on the unsustainability of fishing this year, consumers have become increasingly attentive to the origin of the fish they consume. According to FAO data, more than a third of fish species are caught more than permitted limits, and fraud of species passed off as others, and discovered through DNA sample analysis, abounds. The situation is no different from us. Italy is the second largest producer of fishing in the Mediterranean area, with volumes around 300 thousand tons and a value of more than 700 million euros. But fish stocks are overfished, and at high risk of collapse. To prevent fraud, check that fishing takes place in sustainable areas and species, certify the entire supply chain “from the net to the table” one label is not enough. And even the controls of the competent authorities fail to carry out the necessary monitoring continuously in such a broad context. Once again an answer is sought from hi-tech solutions, with the blockchain at the forefront. The Surefish consortium, winner in 2020 of the European PRIMA call for 1.5 million euros, is made up of 13 partners from both shores of the Mediterranean Sea including Egypt, Italy, Lebanon, Spain and Tunisia and works synergistically with technologies and skills on ICT, blockchain, intelligent labeling and packaging, innovative analytical and sensory methods for traceability and evaluation of fisheries. The objective is on the one hand the control upstream on the supply chain, on the other hand to provide consumers with guarantees and therefore greater confidence compared to Mediterranean fish. Internationally, for some years now, large companies such as Austral Fisheries have decided to adopt the blockchain to certify their supply chain. The freshly caught fish is deprived of head and tail, and then equipped with a digital label certified via blockchain that will follow it throughout its journey, updating itself step by step through a platform designed and managed by OpenSC, of ​​which WWF is co-founder. . The same is done by the UK platform Provenance, which launched a pilot project to track yellowfin tuna back in 2016, as well as the WWF in New Zealand to certify tuna fishing in Fiji. But it can also be used for small fish: the Sustainable Shrimp Partnership in Ecuador traces via blockchain, relying on the IBM Food Trust platform, farmed shrimp from a sustainable supply chain both as regards respect for the environment and for workers’ rights. more than the current certification, the MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) which in a report by the French NGO Bloom of 2020 emerged as inadequate for the protection of populations from invasive fishing practices such as trawling and the use of too fine mesh which also trap the too young specimens. But they are also difficult steps to apply on a large scale, and which are likely to catch on very quickly, especially for high-end products, for which consumers are willing to pay the additional cost of certification. However, FAO is optimistic, and has recently published a report on the application of the blockchain for the certification of the seafood supply chain. The authors of the study are betting on the conscience of consumers and on virtuous companies that decide to voluntarily apply more transparent systems for tracking their product.

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