The SALT DataLab in Bangkok / by Francisco Blaha

Been to a lot of workshops and meetings on traceability, but none like the one I been involved over the last two days here in Bangkok with the good people of FishWise under the SALT (The Seafood Alliance for Legality and Traceability) Initiative. To the point that they call it a DataLab instead of a workshop.

presentations as I never seen before... who you are and where do you fit in the big picture (literally!) 

presentations as I never seen before... who you are and where do you fit in the big picture (literally!) 

I wrote before about FishWise and SALT, but in a nutshell, SALT is a global alliance for knowledge exchange and action to promote legal and sustainable fisheries through improved transparency in seafood supply chains. 

They bring together the seafood industry, governments and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to accelerate learning and support collaboration on innovative solutions for legal and sustainable seafood, with a particular focus on traceability, the ability to track the movement of seafood through supply chains. 

The overall purpose of SALT is to realize improvements in fisheries sustainability and marine biodiversity through enhanced traceability and transparency that enables and incentivizes stronger fisheries management and increased industry self-regulation.

SALT Goals

  1. Expand accessible, interoperable and electronic catch documentation and traceability for wild capture fisheries and aquaculture.
  2. Increase the capacity of seafood-producing countries to adopt catch documentation and traceability systems to strengthen fishery management and verify fisheries data.
  3. Increase incentives and capacities for the seafood industry to adopt electronic traceability to ensure the legality of wild-caught fisheries products in their supply chains.
  4. Identify ways in which the implementation of electronic catch documentation and traceability can support human and labour rights for all seafood workers, food security, livelihoods and well-being.

At the end of this five-year project, SALT envisions a landscape with an empowered private sector that is able to meet its sustainability commitments by leveraging traceability and take action against the trade in illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUUF) products and those associated with human rights and labour abuses. SALT will support efforts to transform how the seafood industry and governments collect, share, verify, and utilize data, in the pursuit of sustainable fisheries and biodiversity conservation.

This workshop, or “DataLab," was set up as a knowledge-sharing meeting to promote learning around traceability and illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing worldwide. 

These are issues most of the people there already work on, but the idea to have this call for broader access to people and ideas to solve particular aspects of the problem is a good one. 

At the DataLab, everyone got the chance to engage with other seafood experts one don’t typically access every day, such as those in industry, technology, regulation, finance, government, and human rights. Gathering knowledgeable and influential minds in one room enables productive conversations, and they welcomed wide expertise and perspective.

The purpose of this particular DataLab was to convene influential stakeholders from Asia with diverse perspectives on issues related to seafood traceability, seafood legality, and fishery management. Identify and prioritize specific transparency-related problems and associated knowledge gaps that require collaboration to solve.

The outcomes expected were to

  • Form relationships among influential stakeholders from government, industry, NGOs, and other organizations
  •  Understand and identify opportunities for creating shared value
  • Identify a set of common knowledge gaps and problems to solve through collaboration
  • Build social capital and increase the willingness of participants to take action
  • Prepare participants to explain SALT and the value of SALT to their organizations

I feel that they nailed it, I was quite surprised by the wide field of people and how many people I got to see again as it has been a while since I worked in Asia other than Thailand.

The key value I got was not only on the outcomes (some of them confirmed issues I suspected already, while others were more novel) but on the process; this is the 1st workshop that I been that involved facilitation by facilitation professionals that are not people that work in the topic. While strange initially, the fact that they stick to a plan an are “inert” to the technical components (i.e. have no direct interest in the technical outcome) was really refreshing nd conducent top results.

Unfortunately, we could not have a wide presence form the Pacific (4 only but very good ones) due to a mixture of unfortunate late dropouts and visa problems…

Charlyn (front left) and Saurara (bottom left) did an awesome Pacific representation... knowledgeable and hard working.

Charlyn (front left) and Saurara (bottom left) did an awesome Pacific representation... knowledgeable and hard working.

But we got they thinking about organizing one for the Pacific since it is the “source” of a lot of Industrially caught fish processed in Asia comes from the Pacific, yet our situation for small scale is very different (very small value chain). 

SALT in progress

SALT in progress

I personally think that an event like this one in the Pacific (in Fiji perhaps) could be great for the region since our approaches for working in between traceability for sanitary and IUU are much more aligned than in Asia, but not so much in terms of labour issues. So I committed to promoting this idea among the regional organizations I work with.

As soon as the outcomes of the DataLab are out, I’ll post it here.