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November 1, 2021

Take Part: Your Chance to Have Your Say on Seafood Traceability

The Canadian government is asking for your input on seafood supply chain traceability. Two years ago, it committed to developing a boat-to-plate traceability system for Canada in response to the ongoing problem of seafood fraud, but since then, almost no progress has been made.

For each year the government fails to deliver on this – in addition to not being able to trust the seafood we eat – Canadians are spending up to $160 million on products of illegal fishing, $93.8 million in tax revenue and Canadian fishers are losing an estimated $379 million from lost income. Seafood traceability doesn’t just ensure that you’re getting the product that’s written on the label; traceability will also give us the capability to keep illegally fished products, endangered species, fish caught using destructive practices and even products of modern slavery, out of Canadian supply chains. Without traceability, Canada simply does not have that power.

Disappointingly, a discussion paper released before the recent federal election – and after months of consultations with stakeholders – still does not contain any kind of plan for developing full-chain traceability for seafood in Canada; indeed, it does not even include a timeline for developing one. The government’s failure to take an urgent approach to full-chain traceability is leaving Canadian consumers and honest fishers vulnerable. We know that seafood mislabelling is still happening; Oceana Canada’s latest seafood fraud study, conducted in spring 2021, revealed that 46 per cent of seafood samples tested in restaurants and grocery stores in four Canadian cities were mislabelled.

Now, you have a chance to tell decision makers directly that you want to see seafood traceability put in place.

To participate in the public consultation, send an email to btp-bat@inspection.gc.ca before December 11, 2021 and letting the government agencies tasked with this file know that you want to see full-chain traceability put in place without further delays.

To help draft your email, you may wish to use some of the points we’ve put together below:

  • As a consumer, I want to feel confident that the seafood I buy is correctly labelled, safe, and isn’t contributing to illegal or harmful environmental and human rights practices. Without mandatory full-chain traceability, that isn’t possible. The government should work quickly to develop a traceability system that works to protect Canadian consumers and honest Canadian fishers. 
  • Seafood is a high-risk product, with notoriously long and complex supply chains, fraught with widespread global illegal activity, and most of the seafood we eat here in Canada is imported from other parts of the world. Seafood simply cannot be effectively regulated in the same way as food products that originate predominantly within Canada and have shorter, less complex supply chains, such as dairy or poultry. Other countries know this and have taken concrete action to safeguard their seafood supply chains. 
  • Current Canadian labelling standards are out of date and misleading. A single species of fish can be labelled using multiple common names, and one common name, such as snapper or sole, can be legally used for dozens of different species. Country of origin requirements mean that a fish caught in Canada can end up labelled as a product of China if that was the last place the fish was processed. So even if a fish is compliant with all current requirements and is correctly labelled, there is currently no way to know what it really is or where it was really caught. Requiring the scientific species name and true point of origin on seafood products is a simple and effective way to make sure consumers have the information they need to make informed choices. 
  • Canadian fishers are already compliant with higher traceability standards in other markets. Why are we requiring our fisheries meet a high standard of transparency, but allowing products from less regulated parts of the world to be sold in Canada without providing proof of legality or sustainability status? We’re getting left behind on traceability. Canada will have to comply, either by showing leadership now or by being compelled to conform with the requirements of other markets, placing a burden on our fishers. We need a level playing field to protect Canadian industries and ensure consumers can feel confident in the products they’re buying. 
  • You can protect Canada’s seafood supply chains, Canadian health and protect the oceans by creating a comprehensive, mandatory boat-to-plate traceability system without further hold-ups. Traceability is a challenge, but it can be done. To protect the oceans, consumers, global human rights and our domestic fisheries, Canada must keep up with global traceability and transparency requirements. 

This is your chance to have your voice heard! You can also share this information with your friends and family on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to make sure that as many people as possible speak up in support of seafood traceability.

Every voice counts! Thank you for all that you do to protect the oceans. Together, we can make sure that Canada does its part to protect ocean ecosystems, local fishers, human rights and consumers.