Aloha! 👋 I’m a graduate student and Elements Fellow at the MIT Media Lab in the Responsive Environments group. This piece is the beginning of my journey to scope out a research topic for my thesis at the intersection of ocean conservation initiatives and blockchain. Currently, this project is a collaboration with Conservation International on their tuna program for environmental sustainability and social responsibility initiatives.
I am doing review of existing initiatives and pilots in order to evaluate the potential of distributed ledger technologies that are being implemented to address accountability and transparency issues in the fisheries supply chain sector. As of this writing, I am particularly interested on the Pacific Island tuna fisheries as a case study to further my research explorations.
Because fisheries is not my field of expertise, I am documenting my thesis work in an open-source fashion within the Field Work section. Your feedback and questions are most welcome!
Currently blockchain technology is implemented in a myriad of use cases from digital currencies built on public ledgers (e.g. Bitcoin and Ethereum) to enterprise solutions building permissioned ledgers, that operate like a super fancy database (e.g Hyperledger Fabric, AWS Blockchain Solutions).
I like this chart.
The use of blockchain technology for opaque supply chains are only being recently explored by a series of startups in collaboration with conservation-oriented NGOs who have deployed initiatives or pilot studies investigating the provenance of commonly consumed species of tuna, such as Skipjack tuna. Over 31% of the world’s global fish stocks are overfished, therefore a variety of NGOs work with stakeholders to reform fisheries management globally, focusing on sustainable practices that conserve ecosystems, but also sustain livelihoods and ensure food security. Distributed ledgers have the potential to make the tuna fishery supply chains more transparent and traceable, allowing consumers to refuse mislabeled produce or produce caught via IUU1 fishing methods that encompass modern slavery.
In this landscape assessment, I am interested in understanding:
1) Why the application of blockchain for the opaque seafood supply chains of today could be a good idea (and how)
2) Think about how maybe blockchain can increase transparency in supply chains that are correlated with violating conservation and social responsibility efforts
This is exactly how I feel when I read about blockchain in the seafood sector…
As of today, the pilot studies discussed in this article are funded either through a blend of Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) and venture capital funds or local governments that unite with NGOs (ie Conservation International, the World Wide Fund for Nature, etcetera). In order to generate the necessary momentum to incentivize the multitude of “human layers” in the tuna supply chain to append data with integrity to the distributed ledger, these NGOs work with large conglomerates to pressure the suppliers into holding their product sources accountable.
New pilots and initiatives trying to integrate blockchain technology are being launched monthly, so I keep this list updated as often as I can.
Feel free to comment in this pubpub or contact me directly if you have feedback on what you see!