What can a company do to be a Trusted Trader? Comments to NOAA & the Federal Register

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has asked for comments from the public to help it and other U.S. federal agencies define the criteria for “Trusted Traders”.  It is for a new program requiring traceability for imported seafood made from species at-risk for illegal fishing overseas.  Our understanding is criteria will be made available to U.S. seafood importing companies to qualify as Trusted Traders to fast track the process.

The Sustainability Incubator has provided comments, which may be found on the federal register.

We propose that Trusted Traders are those U.S. companies which can show due diligence for sourcing with legality. Rather than a cumbersome reporting program, we would like to suggest eligible companies can demonstrate how they are tracking the supply chains behind their products and managing for legality in procurement in an efficient and accurate way.

In sharing comments our purpose is to specify some of the ways American food companies seeking “Trusted Trader” status could report information to federal authorities to help end illegal fishing, recognizing it is one part of a shared responsibility across many parties—each needing to play their role too for any change to occur.

We also suggest NOAA consider the big data gaps. Suggestions are offered for things that can be measured to help enact the changes NOAA wants to see to lower illegal fishing worldwide. We offer a partial list of the information needed to track changes over time to see if things are getting any better.

Please see our comments in the document provided, entitled  Closing loopholes for imported seafood_Help from Trusted Traders_Sustainability Incubator_June 6 2016

Putting a face on smallholders to strengthen the industry’s future

In Bangkok on May 26th I was privileged to join a panel on Social Accountability in Supply Chains, together with Darian McBain from Thai Union and Emma Bourgois from Verifik8.  The event was called Feeding the Future and it was concerned with agriculture and aquaculture in Asia.  Today’s blog is about the ‘culture’ part of feeding the future.

First of all, it was a joyful experience.  Same kind of Bangkok hotel, same kind of concerns as in fishing but a wholly different feeling about food and, especially, about the value to the industry from the small producers at the front of supply chains.  In agriculture, they are valued.  In fact, at this event, smallholders’ constraints to success were the #1 priority, seen as the #1 determinant of the industry’s future success.  How completely refreshing, obvious, and very different from fishing, where migrant fishers and plant workers have no face and virtually no presence in procurement policy, NGO programming, or even academic writings on fishing.  Aquaculture is a little different.

Respect for the “culture” of food production is key to future success.  More fish for more people — it can’t be automated, but will result from better husbandry and stronger relationships, I am sure of it.

The theme of the event, hosted by USAID and Winrock International, was innovation.  Participants were asked to come to support technological innovation in agriculture and aquaculture in Asia.

In the day before our panel, leaders from fisheries research institutes from Bangladesh, Nepal, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, India — well, all of the Asian nations, joined the aquaculture session — making for an incredible wealth of knowledge in one room.  There was one topic: small holders — how are they limited and what do they need?  The group came up with a short list of shared priorities which USAID will take forward and support through a regional business competition inviting Asia-based entrepreneurs to demonstrate their innovations and how they might advance food production in the region most effectively.  We also heard from innovative companies offering low cost technologies which small holders can afford, like Sunfarmer.org, offering solar-powered irrigation, and eFishery, a fish feeding technology with a high degree of sensitivity to pond conditions.

It wasn’t a bells and whistles show or a hocus pocus platform for technology.  Everything I heard at the event was down to earth and very much about human development: learning, growing, expanding.

I have roots in agriculture, having nearly become a soil scientist and writing a thesis on agricultural extension for my undergrad.  Still, above the familiarity from my nostalgia, there was something very important here for fishing.  It’s this question:  where is the producer’s human face in our sector’s definition of seafood sustainability?  Why can’t we see it?

For the industry to flourish, we’re going to need to start recognizing it.

Special thanks to Katie Henke at Winrock International for organizing the panel and to Darian and Emma for making it fun.  Huge mahalo to Sompong and Patima for attending from the Labour Rights Promotion Network, Ken Kennedy from DHS, Nicole Kenny from NYU Stern, and Cheryl He and Doniell Silva from Concordia.

With much Aloha,