Melissa Garren is Chief Scientific Officer of Pelagic Data Systems


SeaWeb: What do you think is the future of traceability and transparency?

Melissa Garren:  The marketplace expectations for traceability and transparency seem destined to grow, especially considering we are moving ever deeper into the digital age. Many people, particularly younger generations, expect nearly all information to be readily available at all times. Adding those elements of traceability and transparency into new products is no longer an “add-on”; they are necessities that should be a key component of any long-term business plan.  

SeaWeb: How does your company, or your client companies, think about traceability? Do they think about it mainly in terms of supply chain management, or as a way to communicate to the marketplace?

Melissa Garren: We work with a large variety of clients that have equally varied perspectives on traceability. Some clients think in terms of strategic business management and optimizing their supply chains, some are using it to connect directly with consumers to tell the stories of their products. Others view it as a common-sense insurance policy. Each client has different needs, but one of the important things to acknowledge about traceability is that clients – and consumers – can all gain from implementing traceability into their products and communicating successes and failures.

SeaWeb: How should companies think about traceability and transparency?

Melissa Garren: When purchasing, consumers generally are looking for known products they can find at reasonable prices. Traceability and transparency supports those two principles. For example, look at the seafood industry. Illegal product is estimated to currently account for $2 billion (USD) of the wild-caught seafood imports into the US market. An increase in transparency and traceability will help to drive that product out of the market, creating opportunities for good products and helping to sustain fair pricing for legally caught seafood. Furthermore, consumers now will have the advantage of knowing precisely where the fish they’re having for dinner was caught. It’s nearly impossible for responsible companies to compete with the low prices for which illegal product is currently sold, so transparency is a fantastic tool for companies to help push illegal product out of the market.

SeaWeb: What are some examples of companies getting market value from traceability?

Melissa Garren: There are a number of great examples, such as Del Pacifico Seafoods, which has recently achieved Fair Trade certification for a Mexican shrimp fishery they work with in the state of Sinaloa, thanks in large part to the excellent traceability they have helped to create in that supply chain. This is bringing a price premium as well as access to new markets. We’ve similarly worked with North Atlantic Seafood in Indonesia to increase monitoring of their tuna and snapper fisheries, which has helped them market their sustainably caught products.

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