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See-through seafood: transparency project gains momentum

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Public information on the sourcing of all their seafood will soon be expected by all responsible companies in the industry, according to a leading NGO.

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Transparency will be the norm says the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP), which recently announced that Walmart had joined its Ocean Disclosure Project (ODP) alongside UK retailers Asda, Co-op Food, and Morrisons, UK seafood supplier Joseph Robertson and French food service company Davigel. Aquaculture feed manufacturers Biomar, Cargill/EWOS, and Skretting have also joined the project.

SFP started the ODP in 2015 to provide a valuable information resource for responsible investors, seafood consumers, and others interested in sustainable seafood.

The data on the ODP’s website includes locations where the wild seafood they source is caught, as well as related gear types, fisheries management information, environmental impacts, certifications, and fishery improvement projects.

Interview with Blake Lee-Harwood, SFP © Small World TV

ODP members have also recently agreed to make public on their online profile new corporate information covering whether they have a public seafood sourcing policy or commitment, its scope and any specific objectives or time-bound targets set by the company. They will also include reported progress toward those objectives.

“Walmart has made a huge contribution to making seafood more sustainable and is now showing real leadership in adopting a more transparent approach to the sustainability aspects of the fish and shellfish the company sells,” says Blake Lee-Harwood, Strategy Director at SFP. “We hope this move will encourage other retailers and processors to join the ODP and tell their customers about the sustainability of their seafood.”

“Publishing sustainability commitments is a core element of a responsible seafood policy and we applaud companies that are providing this information. Placing details about sustainable seafood sourcing alongside commitments on the same website allows users of the ODP to see for themselves the progress being made by individual companies.”

”We are proud of our efforts to make the seafood we sell more sustainable and joining the Ocean Disclosure Project is one more way we can show our passion and commitment for sustainability and transparency,” said Laura Phillips, Senior Vice President of Sustainability for Walmart. “ODP provides an important service to consumers and other stakeholders when understanding where their seafood comes from.”

SFP expects the format of the ODP profiles, currently standing at 12 members, will continue to expand in 2018, with incorporating information on traceability measures identified as the next development.

“One of the problems that we found at SFP when we looked into seafood supply chains and how to make them more sustainable is that there is a lack of transparency and it’s not always the case that you can find out where fish came from, how they were produced and so on, and that’s a big problem when trying to deliver improvements,” says Lee-Harwood. “Consequently we created the ODP to help build a culture of transparency where it will become unacceptable not to be completely open about where you get your seafood, how it was produced. Eventually it should make transparency a simple tenet of doing business, which it is not at the moment.”

The ODP website is currently operated by SFP but should become independent by the end of 2020. The project has been generously funded by the John Ellerman Foundation.