COMES researchers are working with the fishing and seafood industries to track seafood from ocean to market. The system, called Fish Trax, satisfies more than consumer curiosity. Traceability assures buyers that the seafood they are purchasing is really the seafood on the label.
In 2012, a study conducted by the ocean conservation group Oceana revealed that one-third of the seafood samples they tested in U.S. grocery stores and restaurants were mislabeled. Fish Trax provides the information consumers need to know. Scientists and managers benefit, too, by receiving real-time information that can help support sustainable fisheries and strengthen wild fish runs.
Fish Trax was launched in 2008 as a marketing platform for Pacific Coast fishermen and a tool for fisheries science and management. Since then, it’s grown into a leading-edge electronic information system for North American fisheries to collect, analyze, and share information among the entire seafood community, from resource manager to consumer.
Here’s how it works. As each fish is caught, fishermen attach a barcode tag to the tail fin that identifies that fish. The barcode links to a database that stores information about the fish: where and when it was caught, its size and fat content, and all the steps in its processing. In the market, a consumer can scan the code on a smart phone or a Fish Trax kiosk to learn the story of the fish and the fisherman who caught it.
“All of the participants share the goal of building trust and using science to help sustain our seafood harvest,” said Sylvia, who helped develop the program.