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 April 20 2008
Participants of the workshop visit fish processing plants in Bali, Indonesia to gain lessons and insights on the traceability and safety management practices within the fish industry.

Participants of the workshop visit fish processing plants in Bali, Indonesia to gain lessons and insights on the traceability and safety management practices within the fish industry.

BALI, INDONESIA - Fish traceability entails access to relevant data in the fish/product chain, from catch or farming to consumption. Systems for traceability of fish products are deemed necessary as key elements in ensuring quality and safety, and because consumers demand ever more information about the food they eat. The overriding goal of traceability is to reinforce the consumers' faith in fish products as high-quality, healthy, clean and safe. However, despite the noticeable development of traceability systems worldwide, some important questions remain, particularly at the level of international fish trade and how small-scale fish farmers can cope with these rigid procedures and standards.

The above issues set the scene for the international workshop sponsored by FFTC and co-organized by the Indonesian Research Center for Aquaculture held in Bali, Indonesia in November 2007 attended by 12 speakers representing 8 countries in Asia and about 20 local participants. The main objective of the workshop was to provide a venue for the sharing and exchange of knowledge, information, and practical tools toward the development and adoption of a suitable fish and fish products traceability system in Asia, considering the great complexity of the production and distribution chain, as well as the prevailing characteristics of the fish industry in the region.

Specifically, the participants deliberated on: the development of traceability systems in the fish supply chain to meet both regulatory and market requirements domestically and internationally; methods of system analysis, technological solutions, data capture and communications along the supply chain; and how all these can be applied within each country's fish industry, eventually toward harmonizing standards and guidelines among trading countries.

The workshop also sought to promote the importance of a traceability system in giving each country in Asia a better opportunity not only in terms of trading, but also in improving overall fish industry management, market position, and competitive edge by ensuring food safety, quality and sustainability of resources.

One vital recommendation during the workshop is the need for domestic policy support in each country in favor of small- and medium-scale fish farmers. In some developing countries, one way to do this is to encourage, promote and support group fish farming or production and marketing units. Enabling policies (e.g. government subsidy) must also be made available to small-scale fish farmers, and they must be provided with training and support services to improve their capacity to adopt safety management systems and traceability.

Cost is a major issue in the development and adoption of traceability system for fish and fish products. Hence, the success of a system (such as bar code, RFID, etc.) is not so much an issue of technology, but of cost-effectiveness. Consumers must also be willing to pay for better access to information on product history, from production to distribution, and attain product trust and satisfaction. Finally, small producers must be provided with incentives such as a better opportunity not only in terms of trading, but also in improving overall fish industry management, market position, and competitive edge.

With the goal of harmonizing standards and regulations among countries in the Asian region, resource sharing and technical collaboration is important in the development of fish and fish products traceability system.