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Do you know where the fish on your plate comes from?

Today’s consumers want to know exactly where their fish come from

Seafood products are among the most widely traded food commodities – totaling around USD 145 billion per year. As the seafood industry becomes increasingly globalized, there is a heightened demand on the part of consumers to know exactly where their fish and seafood products are coming from.

In the seafood industry, this is called ‘traceability’, and seafood industry experts are increasingly speaking in terms of ‘sea to plate’ traceability to meet growing consumer demand.

According to Audun Lem, Deputy-Director of FAO’s Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, traceabilty is important for two main reasons. “The first is related to quality and safety issues.

If we know the origin of the fish, we can trace it back across the entire value chain to when it was first caught or farmed and ensure that every stage proper hygiene and safety standards were followed.

The second important aspect of traceability is to ensure legality – making certain that the fish were fished within agreed quotas, by licensed fishermen and women in keeping with rules and regulations and that all importers and exporters were licensed and followed national and international rules and regulations in delivering the fish to the end consumer.”

These fishing zone maps are often displayed where fish is sold, and new labeling rules for the European Union necessitate inclusion of these fishing zones, divided into sub-areas for EU fishing areas, alongside additional information including production method, fishing gear used and best before dates for packaged products. See the quick guide to EU labeling here.

Here is the FAO map with insets for Subareas and divisions for 27 and 37, as required by European Union regulations:

For FAO maps in all UN languages, click here

According to Ruggero Urbani, FAO Consultant and Veterinarian and Fish Inspector for the Italian Health Agency (ASL), “The new EU labeling policy allows the consumers to make more informed decisions when purchasing their fish and seafood products. I believe it has also strengthened seafood consumption in recent years since fish is now sold alongside information about its origin.

In the past, inexpert seafood buyers had concerns about the origins or freshness of their seafood. An increased focus on traceability of fish and seafood products helps to increase consumer confidence in these products.” 

You can learn more about the importance of labeling and the use of FAO fishing zones in this short FAO video, Tracing the Catch



Fishermen offloading the day's catch of fresh fish at Fiumicino harbour
An increased focus on traceability of fish and seafood products helps to increase consumer confidence in fish and seafood products
Fishing boats entering the Fiumicino harbor, outside of Rome, Italy

At the fish auction at Fiumicino, Italy, an octopus is shown. The auction immediately follows the return of the boats. All lots are sold to retailers with the origin clearly indicated
Since the 1950s, FAO Major Fishing Areas for Statistical Purposes have been in place
All catches are registered and labeled with information pertaining to origin
Fish displayed with the FAO fishing zones


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