Exploring Provenance of Tuna using Distributed Ledgers
Currently decentralized networks that employ distributed ledger technologies (DLT), such as blockchain, are implemented in a myriad of use cases from digital currencies (ie Bitcoin and Ethereum) to enterprise solutions. In this research thrust, we are interested in the application of DLT for the opaque supply chains of today, specifically those that are correlated with violating conservation and social responsibility efforts. The use of blockchain technology for opaque supply chains are only being recently explored by a series of startups in collaboration with conservation-oriented NGOs who have deployed initiatives or pilot studies investigating the provenance of commonly consumed species of tuna, such as Skipjack tuna. Over 31% of the world’s global fish stocks are overfished, therefore a variety of NGOs work with stakeholders to reform fisheries management globally, focusing on sustainable practices that conserve ecosystems, but also sustain livelihoods and ensure food security. Distributed ledgers have the potential to make the tuna fishery supply chains more transparent and traceable, allowing consumers to refuse mislabeled produce or produce caught via IUU1 fishing methods that encompass modern slavery.
As of today, the pilot studies discussed in this article are funded either through a blend of Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) and venture capital funds or local governments that unite with NGOs (ie Conservation International, the World Wide Fund for Nature, etcetera). In order to generate the necessary momentum to incentivize the multitude of “human layers” in the tuna supply chain to append data with integrity to the distributed ledger, these NGOs work with large conglomerates to pressure the suppliers into holding their product sources accountable.
Active Project Summaries
Provenance: in partnership with the International Pole and Line Association (IPLA) pilot project, traces products from Indonesian tuna fisheries to consumers in the UK using blockchain. Their report outlines blockchain's ability to identify and trace the history, distribution, location and application of products and materials, "to ensure the reliability of claims in the areas of human rights, the environment, and labor”. Pilot study report. News
Atato: makes it possible to trace MSC tuna via Ethereum platform. Pacifical (using Atato as the blockchain company) is associated with the Parties to the Nauru Agreement with whom CI is working closely. News. Slides from SAFET. Demo
OpenSC: Working with WWF on Austral Fisheries, part of the Maruha Nichiro seafood group, implement OpenSC technology in its Patagonian Toothfish operation (Chilean Sea Bass) and throughout its global supply chain across Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. News. Demo
Viant: a Consensys company, undertook a partnership with the World Wildlife Fund to prototype its asset-tracking and supply chain modeling platform to provide functional solutions to the issue of provenance in fishing in the South Pacific. They’ve partnered with Elkrem, an IoT-on-the-Ethereum blockchain company. News
SeaQuest (Fiji)/TraSeable: Previously partnered with WWF and Viant (ConsenSys) for an Ethereum-blockchain solution. SeaQuest (Fiji) promo video. Using RFIDs for tracking + QR code for quick scanning. Slides from SAFET.
SeaBOS2 [Task Force I: Reducing IUU fishing and eliminating modern slavery]: A proof of concept pilot built on Hyperledger Fabric to track volume of sardines caught per harvest and address undocumented fishermen aboard vessels [potential indicator of modern slavery] was launched off the western coast of Mexico December 2018 and is expected to be completed May 2019. Nutreco, a fish feed company, leads this pilot using on-deck species-detecting cameras per harvest batch and facial image recognition software.
Institutions + Governmental Agencies
USAID Oceans and Fisheries Partnership (USAID Oceans)
Assisting governments and industry in Southeast Asia to implement digital catch documentation and traceability (CDT) system
Working with BCG Digital + OpenSC on Toothfish supply chain management
Mission around wild seafood
Global Food Traceability Center (IFT)
Working with IBM blockchain platform to trace romaine lettuce post-E.Coli outbreak.
International Pole and Line Association (IPLA)
Worked with Provenance on Indo tuna pilot
Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA)
Working with Atato (via Pacifical)
Blockchain Trust Accelerator
SeaBOS Blockchain Pilot - Taskforce Lead
Streamr (UpStreamr hackathon project)
I’m a graduate student and Elements Fellow at the MIT Media Lab in the Viral Communications group. This research is the beginning of my journey to scope out a research topic for my thesis at the intersection of ocean conservation initiatives and blockchain. Currently, this project is a collaboration with Conservation International on their tuna program for environmental sustainability and social responsibility initiatives.
I am doing review of existing initiatives and pilots in order to evaluate the potential of distributed ledger technologies that are being implemented to address accountability and transparency issues in the fisheries supply chain sector. As of this writing, I am particularly interested on the Pacific Island tuna fisheries as a case study to further my research asks.
1 The term “illegal, unreported and unregulated” fishing - or IUU fishing - has emerged to describe a wide range of such irresponsible activity. In 2001, after more than two years of great effort, the Members of FAO developed an International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate IUU Fishing (IPOA-IUU) to address this problem.