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Blockchain Against Slavery: How an Innovative Technology Allows Users to Track the History of Tuna

When you buy a can of tuna in a grocery store or order sashimi in a restaurant, would you ever think that the fish served is likely to have been caught by slaves in Southeast Asia?

Even the presence of a certificate on the label is not a definite proof that the product you have chosen is of good quality and produced in accordance with the requirements of law, since certificates are sometimes duplicated and can be easily forged. How can you check the purity of fish? The newest method is to be more precise, the “blockchain” technology now widely used, allows us to track the fish from the moment when the fishing vessel leaves the port until the moment when the tuna gets to us on the table.

How does this happen? The principle of blockchain remains the same – it protects you from duality. When catch is received, fishermen, sending messages, create a new “asset” on the blockchain and register their catch. When fish are sold regardless to whom – buyers, processors, brands, or supermarkets – the block identifier changes, which allows you to track the “fate” of the fish and at any stage of its production make sure that the fish has been legally caught and are ecologically and ethically ready for being served.

“When you sell fish you caught, you also sell its digital copy in the blockchain,” says Jesse Baker, founder of the Provenance project, which promotes this technology. “This helps prevent duplicity – that is, you can not sell one batch of fish twice and you can not “double” the license, because you have created two batches of fish, each of which claims to be stable and socially acceptable. In our system, this becomes impossible, because the fisherman simply can not double the digital version of the fish.”

With larger fish, such as yellow tuna, which can weigh up to 400 pounds, it is considered possible to use other technologies, as an example, using physical tags and even tracing fish through DNA. But in fact, to track a specific fish is impractical and expensive, it is much easier to track the certificates that accompany each batch of fish. The use of the blockchain also enables open interaction between various organizations working with fish at different stages of its transportation and processing, enabling them to easily exchange data. Today it is not so simple – for security reasons, data is often closed and can not be accessed by anyone else, and since the blockchain is able provide a secure public book, this method provides real transparency.

When a caught fish with a block identifier is delivered to the supermarket, users can trust the authenticity of the data on the blockchain and select the fish which was  responsibly caught, thus motivating honest companies and taking away the demand from suppliers using the worst practices. Nowadays about 10-15% of the total catch is extracted by people working in slavery conditions around the world. In Southeast Asia, where three quarters of the world’s fishing fleet operate, hundreds of thousands of people have been stolen into slavery and forced to work at fishing boats and processing plants.

In February 2016, the US finally closed a loophole in the law that allowed imports of goods produced on the basis of slavery, as if there was not enough American goods. The government also proposed a new program for tracing the origin of goods, for this matter, the blockchain can be a useful tool that will make it possible to ascertain the legal origin of goods. Also, the system will allow tracking, for example, it can simply catch volumes and avoid depletion of biological resources.

In recent news, Provenance starts cooperation with Coop – a large supermarket chain in the UK. Their ultimate goal is to create an open source platform so anyone can use to configure the system.

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