How Blockchain Fights Slavery in the Fishing Industry

Seafood is one of the most-traded food commodities worldwide. But the system is broken.

Jan van Essen
4 min readJul 8, 2020


Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing is a major threat to ocean ecosystems worldwide. Furthermore, it is often associated with modern-day slavery as several reports have shown.

Ian Urbina has been writing for years for The New York Times about crimes offshore and “Sea Slaves”. Associated Press journalists investigated the fishing industry in Southeast Asia. Their reporting “Seafood from Slaves” freed more than 2,000 slaves and traced the seafood they caught to supermarkets across the U.S.

Improving Food Traceability

Blockchain technology can be used to track seafood along global supply chains — from sea to plate. This allows consumers to verify claims about sustainable and ethical sources with smartphone apps.

“Traceability is fundamental to ensuring your supply chain is not tainted with forced labors…”
— Ed Marcum, Managing Director of Humanity United

Provenance: “Tracking tuna on the blockchain”

Food traceability has been shown to be successful in a pilot project, supported by Humanity United and run in Indonesia by the British technology company Provenance, the results of which are released in a report.

This pilot shows how unique tools built by Provenance can be used to prove claims made about products along a supply chain, by tracking chain-of-custody, allowing consumers to access verified information about the origins of fish they are purchasing in a store or at a restaurant.

Provenance — Item tracking of tuna can



Jan van Essen

Creative Coder & Generative Artist · · How to build the future? · Web3 developer · Impact Tech · Blockchain & Deep Learning