Tuesday Project Spotlight: Tuna Tracking Tools
Updated: Feb 25
Environmentalists have long been concerned about overfishing, especially regarding tuna. The World Wildlife Foundation states that several “tuna stocks are currently overfished, meaning that adult fish are being caught faster than they can breed and replenish the population(1).” This has caused a number of tuna species to suffer from population declines.
Though there are sustainable techniques, they often do not have rewards as large as those available in commercial fishing. The tuna caught by unintended capture usually do not live to maturity or get released back into the oceans. In addition, it is difficult for any monitoring of these fishing boats and techniques to occur. Often these boats are out on the deep sea and away from shore for days.
So why is this important? From an environmental standpoint, the oceans have a delicate ecosystem that has been plagued by not only pollution but overfishing. Tuna is an important species and as an apex predator, they are needed to maintain the balance of the ecosystems. Without that balance, the world’s oceans could suffer even further than they already are. When an apex predator like the tuna is taken out of the ecosystem faster than it can grow, it causes the species that they eat to grow out of control. Without a healthy balance of fish in the oceans, the world could see other species get affected. As Mufasa says in the Lion King, “Everything you see exists together in a delicate balance.” Like a jenga tower, even removing a single block or moving a block slightly can topple the entire tower.
Luckily, the World Wildlife Foundation has partnered with global tech innovator ConsenSys, information and communications technology (ICT) implementer TraSeable, and tuna fishing and processing company Sea Quest Fiji Ltd. to create the Blockchain Supply Chain Traceability Project in the Western and Central Pacific regions. WWF-New Zealand, WWF-Australia, and WWF-Fiji are the specific areas of the world where this initiative is taking place and the focus has been on Pacific tuna. Working together, these companies are using an Ethereum-backed blockchain to track where each tuna is coming from.
The initiative plans to use blockchain technology to track when and where each fish was caught and by which vessel and shipping method. This way, consumers will have certainty that they are buying legally caught, sustainable tuna. This method involves the training of fishing crews in the region, which Sea Quest has been assisting with. Fishing crews can register their catch on the blockchain through radio-frequency identification (RFID) e-tagging and scanning fish. Once the product enters the processing facility and is partitioned out into various products, it will receive a QR code (or something similar) that will track the product to its ultimate fate all the way past the retailer (2). The ultimate goal of the project is to allow consumers to use a QR code or an app to track exactly where the tuna has come from. TraSeable has been involved with helping track each tuna that has been tagged, and the information is being stored on the ConsenSys blockchain.
This creative use of blockchain technology represents a huge step forward. Before this project, the buying and selling of Pacific tuna was either tracked by paper records, or not at all. Hopefully this innovative initiative will serve as a model for the use of blockchain technology in sustainability initiatives. As consumers are becoming more aware about the products and food they consume, perhaps knowing exactly where this tuna came from will help them make informed decisions. This may also lead to a decline in illegal fishing and a decline in the number of people purchasing this illegally fished tuna. Consumers should be aware of the impact they are having on the world, and blockchain projects like the Blockchain Supply Chain Traceability Project will enable them to do so.
 World Wildlife Foundation, “Tuna,” https://www.worldwildlife.org/species/tuna#:~:text=bycatch%20into%20account.-,Overfishing,breed%20and%20replenish%20the%20population.
 World Wildlife Foundation, “New Blockchain Project has potential to revolutionise seafood industry,” https://www.wwf.org.nz/what_we_do/marine/blockchain_tuna_project/