Fish Tracking App Connects Consumers To Their Catch

Jun 24, 2015

New seafood traceability technology is starting to show up on Honolulu menus.
Credit Molly Solomon

If you’ve ever been curious about where and how the fish on your dinner plate was caught, now there’s an app for that. HPR’s Molly Solomon reports on new technology that’s tracing the fish on your plate back to the sea.

After eyeing the akule appetizer at a Kaimukī restaurant, Jason Chow whips out his smartphone and scans a code on the menu to find out more about the reef fish. “You just scan this QR code,” said Chow. “And you discover who caught it, when it was caught, where it was caught and how.”

Credit Molly Solomon

Chow isn’t just here to try the food. He’s the operations manager at Local I’a, the team that’s behind this traceability app. That QR code he scanned basically serves as a mini-barcode. It takes him to a website with a profile of the fish he’s about to eat. Chow says customers can see where on the island the akule was caught. And there’s even a photo of Kaipo Miller, the smiling fisherman who reeled it in. “This is the real highlight,” said Chow. “You can look at who the fisherman is: who is Kaipo Miller?”

That connection is part of sustainable seafood. “There seems to be a real disconnect in seafood,” said Ed Kenney, chef-owner of Town, Kaimukī Superette and most recently Mud Hen Water. “Part of it is because it’s a world you can’t see, it’s underwater.” Kenney’s restaurants are the first in the state to use the QR code technology on their menus. “We’ve got a dining out public that seems to be even more educated than chefs and restaurateurs. Chefs have always been at the forefront of it, but now consumers seem to be driving it. So we’re just providing what consumers want”

Local I’a's Operations Manager Jason Chow with Ed Kenney, chef-owner of Mud Hen Water, one of the restaurants piloting the seafood traceability technology on their menus.
Credit Molly Solomon

Local consumers have had access to QR codes on produce and milk cartons for more than a decade. But the leap to seafood is still relatively new. “It’s probably only in the last three to five years that the technology has been there to allow identification all the way back to the boat," said Monica Jain, the founder of Fish 2.0, a global competition that connects sustainable seafood businesses with investors. This year 15 of those businesses have something to do with traceability.

“The people that capture sustainably and are thinking about traceability usually have shorter supply chains, which means you’re getting a fresher product,” said Jain. “They’re more branded and fishermen take more pride in it because people are going to know that piece of fish came from their boat. Also those companies are able to pay their fishermen better prices for their fish.” That’s one more reason Jain expects you’ll see more traceability technology in fish markets, grocery stores, and even restaurant menus.