Is Blockchain the Missing Piece Needed in Curbing Illegal Fishing?

Brian Njuguna   Feb 23, 2020 00:44 (31).jpg

Illegal fishing is a predicament that is at times in oblivion despite its endangering marine ecosystems as it distorts their sustainability and biodiversity. 

Imagine being in a position to use your smartphone to scan packed fish, and immediately know the journey endured by the fish from net to plate. Furthermore, you can access information, such as the time, place, and the boat that caught it. 

Blockchain can make this a possibility as it offers a distributed ledger technology (DLT) that can be helpful in fish tracking from the time it was captured to the moment it is consumed, and this approach can be instrumental in eradicating illegal fishing. 

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has realized the incredible benefits that blockchain can offer when it comes to enhancing proper fishing mechanisms. 

For instance, in December 2019, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in the Philippines teamed upwith UnionBank, a digital wallet, to create a blockchain-powered app dubbed Tracey to offer financial support to local fishers, as well as propel traceability and transparency in the fish supply chain. The blockchain-enabled fish traceability platform was expected to boost sustainable fishing by incentivizing data input. 

Blockchain could transform fishing

According to a report by the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation, the Pacific bluefin tuna has been severely overfishedto the extent that its biomass is close to its lowest. Illegal fishing is, therefore, to blame for this trend.

Bubba Cook, a member of WWF Pacific, noted, “We have seen heavy depletion in certain stocks, like for instance the Pacific bluefin tuna which is at less than 3% of its historic biomass. That should be a shocking figure for anyone that the historic stock has been depleted to the point where the tank is almost empty.”

Notably, illegal catches of different types of tunas, such as bigeye, albacore, yellowfin, and skipjack cost nearly $548 million yearly. It, therefore, shows how egregious illegal fishing is and the urge for optimal traceability. 

Blockchain can revolutionize fishing by ensuring the recovery of fish stocks as only sustainable fishing will be permitted. By leveraging on decentralized ledgers, blockchain can trace the journey of every fish by storing data about the place it was caught and the processing endured. The information stored cannot be manipulated as this technology offers tamper-proof or immutable records. 

The seafood industry is an essential global footprint

The seafood sector has proven to be a significant worldwide footprint as it is approximately worth $500 billion USD. As a result, it is the primary driver of the blue economy. Additionally, nearly 2.6 billion people across the globe are dependenton fish as an essential diet. 

Nevertheless, this industry has remained unregulated, and this is the reason why vices, such as illegal fishing, have been wreaking havoc. For instance, 20% to 30% of fish penetrating the American market have been illegally caught.Therefore, prompting a ripple effect in the society, and this makes illegal fishing cumbersome to eradicate. 

Blockchain-powered systems can prove to be the missing pieces in curbing illegal fishing because all information pertaining to the fishing industry, such as quantities and types of nets, will be registered on distributed ledgers. As a result, relevant authorities will be in a position to know whether the dispatched boats returned to port with the same number of nets they left with. 

Additionally, blockchain can propel the setting up of smart contracts needed in setting up quotas for environmentally friendly and sustainable fishing. 

Various companies have been deploying blockchain technology to enhance traceability and transparency in the fish industry. For example, in November 2019, Cermaq, a leading company in the farming of trout and salmon, joined hands with Labeyrie, a notable French brand of smoked salmon, to propel the traceability of salmon through IBM’s blockchain technology. Expressly, blockchain offers hope of dealing with the menace of illegal fishing. 


Image by Greysen Johnson via Unsplash

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