The seafood traceability initiative was established in 2008 at the urging of commercial fishermen on Vancouver Island.
The pilot began with lingcod and hook‐and‐line‐caught salmon and expanded to sablefish and halibut in B.C.
In May 2010, Ecotrust Canada launched the website allowing fishermen to upload their catch information and allowing consumers to trace their catch.
In September 2010, Ecotrust Canada partnered with the Canadian Council for Professional Fish Harvesters on an ACOA-funded pilot project to expand Thisfish to the
Atlantic lobster fishery.
Yarmouth Bar fishermen Stewart Sweeney, captain of the FV Markland Girls, and Yvon Boudreau, captain of the FV Miss Chatrina ll, signed up with the program in April.
“We’re proud of what we put on the table. This way, it’s personal,” said Sweeney, who is also the local port rep.
He, Boudreau and six other Yarmouth Bar fishermen now average 1,000 ThisFish tags-a-boat, having started off with 300 each.
The program works with each fisherman assigned a unique code, imprinted on a tag or label, to his or her catch.
The fisherman uploads the code to the website ThisFish.info along with details about when, where and how the fish was caught. As the fish travels from ocean to plate, other people in the supply chain can upload additional info about how it was processed and handled.
The restaurateur or retailer receives the fish and traces its origins, ensuring accurate information about its authenticity, quality and sustainability.
The consumer can also enter the code number for information and can even email the fisherman who caught the fish.
Sweeney and Boudreau say the program is under development and continues to be improved.
Being able to trace the route the lobster takes to the final consumer is a source of interest and pride for Boudreau. With the assistance of one of the program developers he was able to trace some of his lobsters to Barcelona, Spain. By this fall, all fishermen enrolled in the program may be able to perform similar searches.
Marketing and communications officer Eric Enno Tamm says ThisFish wants to make the seafood industry more transparent and reward those who responsibly harvest and handle the catch.
“We believe there shouldn’t be anything fishy about eating seafood,” he said.
ThisFish Quick Facts (as of June 9):
•A total of 173 fishing vessels have participated.
•This includes a total of 68 fishing vessels in the salmon, halibut, lingcod and sablefish B.C. fisheries.
•A total of 105 lobster vessels in Atlantic Canada have participated, including 10 in Newfoundland, 53 in P.E.I. and 42 in Nova Scotia.
•About 135,000 pieces of seafood have been tracked.
•Some 46,000 traceable lobsters have been tracked.
•People in 540 cities, towns and villages in 23 countries have traced lobsters through the site.
•The location of those tracing lobster through Thisfish are as follows: Canada 64 per cent; United States 21 per cent; Europe 14 per cent; other 1 per cent.
•Thisfish is experiencing exponential growth: some 30,000 pieces of fish and shellfish have been tracked through Thisfish in the last month. Plans are in place to expand to new fisheries in both Atlantic Canada and British Columbia.