Laurie, Chain of Custody intern tells her story from the field…….

24 Oct 2016

If my current knowledge and education of our global fisheries has taught me anything, it is that now, more than ever, we are in need of sustainable and long term solutions to help safeguard the future of our relationship to fish. Despite stocks declining on a global level, our taste for seafood has yet to be satiated. Given that much of the world relies on the ocean as their primary source of protein, simply ceasing to fish is not a realistic solution.

While I have always had a keen interest in pursing education about the ocean, it’s the complexities and necessary problem-solving skills of fisheries management and the potential for sustainable livelihoods that have me hooked. Through the Marine Affairs Program at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada I was able to fulfill my internship requirement with Masyarakat dan Perikanan Indonesia (MDPI). At MDPI I indulged in my interest in sustainable fisheries by taking on the position of the Chain of Custody Intern. The purpose of this internship was (1) to conduct a gap analysis on an existing tuna processing plant by comparing its current practices to the principles of the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) Chain of Custody (CoC) standard. The MSC CoC is one of the three pillars that, when combined, allow a fishery to bear the MSC label of their final product, to bear the “MSC certified” marker. MSC-certified product is particularly desirable in the western market due to an increased demand from buyers for sustainably sourced seafood.

Another component of this internship was to develop a pair of tools that MDPI could use for current and future partners to outline (2) an overview of the supply chain and what kind of compliance documentation was necessary within each node (i.e. fishermen, suppliers, processors, and market) and (3) recommendations on changes that should be made in order to better comply with the MSC CoC.

In order to complete this, I followed the specific supply chain, which was a contractually aggregated tuna handline supply chain originating from North Maluku. Our path took us from the processing plant, through suppliers/middlemen and down to the fishermen. In doing this, the MDPI team and I visited 5 villages, met with 4 suppliers, and held 5 focus groups with the fishermen associated with these suppliers (suppliers/middlemen are the buyers, which buy directly from the fishermen and usually transport the fish to the first processing facilities. When possible, we also visited the local transportation and fisheries government offices. Questions reflected themes such as, the relationship that the local fishermen have with the government, what kind of licencing or registration do they possess, where and how they fish, and whether the motivation behind obtaining documentation was driven by a demand from the industry or a stipulation by the government.

The information that was gathered during this time was complied together to produce a generalized Indonesian supply chain map (Fig. 1). At each node of the map there is an icon representing the type of documentation that is needed, given different variables (i.e. the size of your vessel or the role you play in the supply chain). When the icon is clicked, it will take the user to a list of the various documents. Each item on the list is also hyperlinked to be able to send the user to an example of what that document looks like and other relevant information pertaining to that document. The MSC CoC recommendation tool manifested itself in the form of a question tree (Fig. 2). This question tree was based off of the five principles that make up the MSC CoC. Depending on how different actors in the supply chain answer the questions in the tree, they will be led to different recommendations or changes they should make, in order to better comply with the MSC CoC.

My experiences at MDPI have both emphasized the complex nature of fisheries management, particularly in an island nation such as Indonesia, and solidified my interest in it. While I was conducting field work I was able to see firsthand the dependence that communities have on the ocean; both for subsistence and for their income. Safeguarding this valuable resource by implementing more sustainable practices is essential to the survival of such communities.

Writer: Laurie Starr


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