Minister for Fisheries, Mr Semi Koroilavesau recently officiated at the launching of Traseable Solutions, a Fijian traceability technology start-up founded by the Katafonos in October 2017.

Speaking to the invited guests that were present to witness the launch, Mr Koroilavesau said that it is indeed a pleasure to see such a young, talented, and enterprising team take up the challenge of trying to address one of the big problems in the fisheries and agriculture sectors. The problem of identifying the source and traceability of food products originating from the Pacific and entering the global supply chain.

“In the Pacific alone, a recent study estimated that US$616 million dollars is lost annually to Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in the tuna industry. The Fijian Government and my Ministry have taken a strong stand in the fight against IUU. Last year Fiji agreed to ratify the FAO’s Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA) which aims to reduce IUU fishing by denying port access to fishers suspected of IUU fishing,”said Mr Koroilavesau.

“Traceability is another tool in the fight against IUU fishing. It is challenging to identify the source of fish caught and very difficult to follow that fish through the global supply chain. The fisheries global supply chain is often described as being “murky” for a reason,” he added.

The importance of the provenance and traceability of food products is growing, and we are seeing international seafood market states like the EU, the US, and others, requiring the traceability of seafood entering their countries.

Market states are strengthening access requirements to fight IUU. As these requirements get stricter, the need for integrated and reliable data systems to support it become necessary both for Government and industry.

Another trend being observed internationally is that consumers are becoming more discerning about what they buy and eat. They want to know that the fish they bought was caught in a sustainable fishery using sustainable fishing methods. They want to know the “story” of their food – where it was sourced from, how it was processed, and how it got to them.

Mr Kroilavesau went on to say that the ministry certainly welcome TraSeable Solution’s efforts through their work so far with the Fiji fishing industry as well as the ministry to design and build a digital traceability platform that can not only improve transparency in fisheries here in Fiji, but in fisheries around the World.

“As I understand it, through TraSeable Solution’s innovation every seafood product can have a story from “bait-to-plate” so to speak. For the Ministry this is exciting because with this level of digital traceability and transparency it can help us in our role as regulators.”

For Fiji’s fishing industry, this could add value by differentiating seafood products from Fiji in international markets and perhaps earning greater revenue in niche markets. It would certainly complement the Fiji fishing industry’s Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification of albacore and yellowfin tuna caught by Fiji’s longline fishing fleet.

“We have been working with TraSeable Solutions and some fishing companies to digitise the fishing permit application process which would streamline the application and processing of permits. These types of efficiencies through technology will greatly assist the Ministry and we look forward to the trials of these features in TraSeable’s traceability platform.”

“This will help us meet the obligations of the FAO’s PSMA and other international treaties to fight IUU. I have no doubt that such a system will enable our dedicated fisheries officers to do their work more efficiently.”

These innovations complement other efforts that the Ministry has been involved in including the use of Electronic Monitoring or video cameras on fishing vessels where the cameras record everything that happens on a boat during a fishing trip. And at the end of the trip the video data is retrieved and analysed by ministry staff.

This adds to the already extensive amount of data that the ministry is capturing about offshore fisheries.

“It is also very exciting that TraSeable Solutions are pioneers in the use of blockchain technology in Fiji and the Pacific because I have been hearing of their work in different fisheries fora recently. Over the last year they, together with their partners – the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF), Sea Quest (Fiji) Limited, and blockchain experts ConsenSys have been involved in a project that is a World-first in the use of blockchain technology for the longline fishery. This work has brought Fiji and our fishery a lot of international recognition lately.”

It is indeed reassuring to see the Katafonos through their investment in TraSeable Solutions embracing both entrepreneurship and digital innovations in Fiji.