The World Wildlife Fund is reportedly building a new blockchain-based system designed specifically for the commercial fishing industry. The project has been conceived of in response to the alarmingly high rate of reports of illegal operations and slavery in the South China Sea and Australian regions. As such, the WWF in Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji have collaborated with U.S. companies ConsenSys and TraSeable to develop the blockchain.
The system will start with allowing fishing operations to record the details of a particular tuna catch on the blockchain and progress all the way to presenting consumers with a QR code that they can scan to check the details of a particular fish on the same blockchain.
Considering that commercial fishing is a highly dangerous profession almost everywhere in the world and even more so in the South East Asia region, WWF’s initiative may help change that. It is estimated that 55 percent of all fishing vessels are currently at work in the South China Sea, likely due to the heavy government subsidies received by the sector. Plenty of studies and reports further highlight the brutality and inhuman conditions that fishermen in the region are forced to endure.
For instance, several reports suggest that the fishing industry operating in the South China Sea relies on exploitative human trafficking for most of its labor. Fishing trawlers and vessels have even been compared to sweatshops in the past, with physical and mental torture being considered commonplace. Laborers on these floating prisons are often forced to work on decks under direct sunlight with very little food or water. An investigation by the University of Auckland revealed that several crew members aboard the South Korean fishing vessel Oyang 70 were subjected to intimidation, beating and sexual abuse.
Eventually, Dermot O’Gorman believes that the retail sector will benefit from WWF’s blockchain project as its the next part of the supply chain for the industry. Acknowledging the technical and logistical inhibitions of such a project, he went on to state that the non-profit was already in discussion with retailers and hopes to do away with the human rights problems currently plaguing the industry at least by the end of 2018. He also said that the company would be simultaneously working to complete the “bait to plate” endeavor in the same time frame.
In the past few years, there have been numerous instances involving fishing boats either sinking due to negligent non-compliance of laws or being intercepted by foreign governments in an attempt to escape Chinese waters. Given that Australia and New Zealand are the frontlines to the latter since they are forced to detain fishermen of Asian origin regularly, it makes sense that the WWF is focusing its attention on the region in particular.
Over the course of 2017, WWF hosted two hackathons with a purview of developing sustainable solutions for environmental issues. One of the participants of the second hackathon is now receiving funding from the non-profit to develop a blockchain-based platform for charities to transparently share how the funds received from donations have been used.