Organizations like the International Standardization Organization (ISO) are setting guidelines internationally for how governments and companies can follow their food production from processing to distribution. However, Alaskan seafood traceability is already mandated by law to ensure that if a product says that is Alaskan, that its path from ocean to the grocer can be documented. This implies knowledge of producers, good record keeping during processing, adequate labels, and a tracking system that functions from catch to retail. These and other steps, such as monitoring and surveillance of shipments, allow truth in advertising and empower consumers to choose wisely and sustainably.
Currently Alaska seafood is certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), which assesses Alaskan seafood traceability. Seafood that is MSC-labeled is certifiably from, and can be traced back to, sustainable fisheries. The presence of their logo helps consumers support companies who value conservation, good management, and best practices. From restaurants to large-scale industrial fisheries, MSC partners with a range of players to encourage sustainable seafood processes.
By why does traceability matter? For a number of reasons. In the case of contamination, tracking seafood can ensure accountability and sufficient product recalls. Also, traceability is fundamental to ensure that seafood has been legally and sustainably caught. Organizations like Greenpeace publish Official Blacklists of vessels and suppliers known for illegal catches. Through retailer and consumer education, distribution of unlawful catches can be curtailed.
Specific to Alaska, tracking is vital because their waters provide the world with 80 percent of sockeye, king and Coho salmon and 42 percent of the world’s wild salmon. With such an important role globally, Alaska must be a model of transparency and traceability for smaller markets, especially developing countries. Consequently, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute actually has a legal Standard for Alaska seafood Traceability that ensures suppliers, distributors, vendors, and consumers that if a product claims Alaska origin that it will abide by sustained yield principle according to state and federal regulation. Being able to track a product from any point of the supply chain also protects the integrity of the “Alaska Seafood” logo, which has come to represent fresh, wild, and natural options for consumers around the world. To be able to verify to retailers and distributors, if needed, that each step of the supply chain has been carried out according to the highest of standards, builds trusts and encourages sustained partnerships.