The objective of a CDS is to keep illegally sourced fish out of legally certified supply chains and prevent them from reaching the market. To achieve this, legally certified fish must be identified and quantified at the beginning of the supply chain, and the “laundering” of illegally caught fish into any stage of legal supply chains must be prevented. A CDS must hence be capable of detecting laundering as it is being attempted.
The only tool that enables this is a well-designed traceability mechanism, which must span an entire supply chain from harvests to landings and to trade. Fish legally entering a supply chain at the harvesting end must be quantified and qualified (form of the product: round, H&G, fillets, etc) and the quantity of fish – which will be separated into thousands of individual catch certificates – must then be traced step-by-step throughout the supply chain by means of the issue and re-issue of export or re-export certificates – i.e. trade certificates – that link the traded products to their previous certificate.
The hard links between subsequent certificates makes it possible to monitor mass balance integrity as fish products move through the supply chain. The serial linking of certificates is the central concept in a CDS traceability mechanism.
The cardinal rule is that the sum of products recorded on child certificates – mother certificates show the source of a consignment and child certificates show the products derived from it – must never exceed the volume of product on the mother certificate (Taking into account processing yields and losses).
A CDS must be capable of monitoring and enforcing this as fish move through the supply chain. In the absence of a traceability mechanism that provides for hard links between mother and child certificates, the origin and legality of product batches along the supply chain becomes an unknown.
The laundering of fish is then undetectable and the CDS cannot achieve its objective; worse, opportunities for fraud are created because IUU fish can easily gain certification and market access through laundering.
If the traceability function in a CDS is well designed, however, and the CDS is implemented correctly by the parties along the supply chain, all laundering attempts can be detected, the perpetrators can be identified and sanctions applied, and the financial benefits of fraud can be forfeited. In this scenario the CDS is certain to achieve its objective.
A CDS is not a forensic tool such as a genetic test applied to a sample to establish whether a consignment actually contains the claimed species of fish. A CDS is a traceability instrument applied to an entire fishery, and in order to be effective it must be able to trace products through the supply chain and automatically detect laundering attempts as they occur.
A well designed CDS will forestall laundering because automated accounting routines can trigger an alarm, or can deny the issue of a certificate when mass-balance integrity rules are breached