Traceability technology getting higher prices for local US fishermen

East Coast software schemes are claimed to obtain better prices for locally caught fish East Coast software schemes are claimed to obtain better prices for locally caught fish

Software schemes have been developed in the north east of the USA which are claimed to obtain better prices for locally caught fish.

Red’s Best, a fish wholesaler in Boston, uses a software program that can provide buyers with “an incredible level of detail on every fish and mollusc that comes through the doors”, according to The Boston Globe.

Each consignment of fish the company sells has a label printed with a two-dimensional barcode or QR code (Quick Response Code). This can be scanned to reveal where and when the fish were caught, what equipment was used, even details about the vessel’s captain.

By providing this information, Jared Auerbach, the company’s founder, who developed the software program, says he is “aggressively marketing” local fishermen. “Where we’ve done well is giving people the tools to pass on the story of the fish,” he says. “We believe there’s value in the story.”

Consumers are willing to spend a little bit more if they know the fish they are buying is a little bit fresher, says Peter Kendall, manager of the Yankee Fisherman’s Cooperative in Seabrook, New Hampshire. “And they like the story of helping local fishermen.”

Unlike in other industries, electronic devices such as software apps, hand-held computers, even the internet, haven’t yet brought great efficiencies to commercial fishermen in the USA, according to The Boston Globe. However, this has created opportunities says Keith Flett, who has built a software platform for an online marketplace called Open Ocean Trading which establishes a price for fish before the catching vessels set out to sea.

Locally sourced
When he was a fish wholesaler, Mr Flett said buyers such as restaurant chefs wanted to plan what fish they bought but didn’t know what the vessels were fishing for until they had brought their catches back to port. Open Ocean Trading allows fishermen to maximise their sales, he says. “And buyers can be assured that the fish they buy is locally sourced.”

Mr Flett cited Nantucket fishermen getting about 20% more for their catch as wholesalers were willing to pay a premium to ensure a supply of the island’s highly prized scallops.

According to Mr Flett, the seafood industry, at least in the north east of the USA, has resisted the use of technology. “What you’re finding is that a lot of people are looking at improving the seafood industry because it hasn’t evolved at all and incorporated technology.”

Problems with fraud and mislabelling in the north east of the USA, which were highlighted three years ago by The Boston Globe, have prompted the development of systems to improve the traceability of seafood. Among them is BackTracker, a confidential database being developed by Michael Carroll, a former commercial fisherman, which enables seafood processors to record the route of seafood as it changes hands.

“We came to the realisation that if you look at the global markets and look at traceability, there’s a huge, huge black hole,” he says. “In the seafood area there’s no uniform database.”

All these schemes will ultimately benefit local commercial fishermen who will be able to target markets where they will get more money for their locally caught fish.




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