Tackling Traceability

Today’s seafood business is facing a growing number of issues including human rights, migrant and labor violations, environmental and climate change threats, and sustainability concerns. Nowadays, consumers want to know where the fish they buy were caught, if the fisheries are sustainable and how the fishermen are being treated. Traceability is becoming especially important in seafood.

Most Thai fishing vessels still reply on paper-based systems to record catch data to help trace the catch. In order to provide fishing boats with digital connectivity and upgrade fishing vessels from their inefficient paper-based systems, Thai Union and MARS Petcare teamed up with Inmarsat to launch a digital traceability pilot program in Thailand, equipping fishing vessels in Ranong with state-of-the-art satellite systems and a proprietary mobile application, providing them with connectivity at sea. This replaces the traditional paper-based logbooks with digital catch data logs enabling fully supply chain traceability. Digital traceability in supply chains is a big step towards ensuring sustainability.

The Project

Together with Bangkok based production company Rubber Knife Productions, I spent several days in Ranong, on Thailand’s west coast, where we documented this trial program. We were contracted by Thai Union and my job was to photograph the installation of the satellite system, the fishermen and their families, while RKP were producing a short documentary on the trial program.

As part of this trial, teams were deployed to selected Thai fishing vessels to install Inmarsat’s Fleet One satellite terminals. This satellite system produces accurate electronic data regarding the size, location and time of a catch, crew information, working hours and working conditions. With the help of this new system, boat owners are able to track their vessels and monitor their exact location.

A Program For Change

The electronic catch data and real-time information helps seafood companies, partners and governments work to minimize illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, thus better protecting fisheries and the environment. The program also helps uphold human rights and reduces supply chain risks for seafood companies. For the first time, workers at sea will be able to connect with their families on land as well as communicate with other fishing vessels, allowing their voice to be heard and to speak up about any labor related issues. With the help of to the proprietary mobile application, fishermen can send and receive pictures, audio and text messages.

As the fishing industry continues to evolve, hope in the success of this pilot project and it’s potential to improve traceability and transparency throughout the greater fishing industry is increasing. If proved successful, the trials conducted in Ranong may have positive ramifications in the global fishing industry.