Over the last three decades, technological advances in capture fisheries and aquaculture, globalization trends, and market and consumer demands have resulted in the continued growth in the production and trading of fish and fish products. Along with these trends, traceability has become a major concern of the fishery industries, especially as it became a legitimate requirement in international fish trade and, more recently, in the growth of fish retailing in food supermarket chains. Furthermore, as fisheries and aquaculture production becomes more market and consumer driven, the greatest pressure on traceability has been coming from the general public. People are getting more and more concerned on what they eat - whether the food comes from a sustainable source and produced through eco-friendly methods, and whether production, transportation, and storage conditions can guarantee food safety.
The Codex Alimentarius Commission (2004) defined traceability or product tracing as the ability to follow the movement of a food through specified stage(s) of production, processing and distribution. In an increasingly competitive food system, traceability has become a major tool in dealing with concerns of food safety, quality assurance, risk prevention, and gaining consumer trust. For fish and fish products, however, traceability systems can be complex. They can be used to achieve different purposes or objectives, such as for food safety regulatory requirements or to ensure quality and other contractual requirements. For instance, external traceability allows the tracking of a product and/or attribute(s) of that product through the successive stages of the distribution chain (from boat or fish farm to table), while internal traceability is aimed at productivity improvement and cost reduction within a production unit (e.g. fish plant). In addition, the authentication of traceability system usually rests with different authorities, at the same time that governments/organizations around the world have been developing different standards and guidelines on fish traceability and food safety.
In view of these developments, how can small-scale fish farmers, especially in some Asian developing countries and countries in transition, cope in terms of meeting traceability requirements to enable them to participate and compete in the network of fisheries and aquaculture production, marketing, and trade?Objectives