The Tiaki fishing approach, which includes innovative nets and a mobile app, is being trialled in a bid to enable consumers around the world to see where their fish came from and how it was caught.
Dave Woods, programme manager for Precision Seafood Harvesting, which was named supreme innovator of the year in 2014, says there is increasing demand from consumers to be more connected to where their food comes from and the methods used to harvest it, meaning the commercial fishing industry needs to transform.
When consumers buy Tiaki caught fish, which will be available in Auckland later this year, a traceability app will allow them to access information relating to where it was caught, how it was caught and information about the species. Hoki, alfonsino, snapper, gurnard, john dory, trevally and kingfish are all included.
The app works to associate each fishing event with a QR code. When each Tiaki net is brought up, information about the haul is recorded and loaded into a database.
While Tiaki caught fish will be available in limited qualities in Auckland later this year, the greatest potential for the technology lies in overseas markets.
With the bulk of New Zealand’s fish exported, CEO of Sealord Steve Yung says Tiaki caught fish provides an opportunity for New Zealand to set itself apart from the rest of the world, giving a competitive advantage particularly in the markets of Asia.
The QR code will not only verify the fish as being from New Zealand, the information about how it was caught will show how Tiaki fish are caught using sustainable fishing methods.
“In terms of the resource we have in New Zealand, it’s limited. The Tiaki brand and technology will allow us to take advantage of the fact that it is a limited resource that we care for, that we catch sustainably, and that we can add value to,” Yung says.
At a time when consumers—particularly those on the younger side—are becoming more conscious of sustainability when making purchase decisions, this move could prove valuable to a brand looking to keep its connection with milennials. And it's in keeping with New Zealand's attempts to play on its premium credentials as a food producing nation.
Last year, New Zealand seafood exports reached a record high of $1.63 billion, up six percent from 2014, according to Seafood New Zealand.
The Tiaki way of fishing replaces traditional trawl nets with modular harvesting systems, which allow small fish to escape while the rest are brought aboard alive. Any unintended catch can then be released unharmed. Commercial fishing companies Sanford, Sealord and Aotearoa Fisheries currently have crews using the new method.
To make sure technology is successful, cameras have been attached to the net enabling scientists at Plant & Food research, a Crown research institute based in Nelson, to monitor how many juvenile fish are caught.
Senior scientist Suzy Black says the project is a strong element of innovation and development work as the findings are used to change the vessels, and the regulations around fishing
“The great thing about this work is that we are learning more and more about the behaviour of fish – and it is very different from species to species.”
Tiaki is the latest stage in the six-year primary growth partnership between the Ministry for Primary Industries and Sanford, Sealord and Aotearoa Fisheries – representing a combined investment of $48 million. The partnership was launched in 2012.
Ministry for Primary Industries director-general Martyn Dunne says even though it is still being trialed, Tiaki has already demonstrated huge potential.
“A lot of the industry players around the world are looking in at New Zealand and thinking this is wonderful.”