Why an EAFI?

When making decisions about purchasing seafood today, seafood buyers, supermarket buyers, chefs and caterers etc. face the challenge of ensuring that their desired products have been produced in a sustainable and ethical manner. Despite the rise in independent certification schemes, many of these are unable to address all the issues in any detail.

What is the EAFI?

Value chain

Factors affecting the value chain landscape at Tier 0.

One of the key deliverables of the SEAT project is the development of an Ethical Aquatic Food Index (EAFI) which is being presented by Prof. Jason Weeks at the 2013 World Seafood Congress in Canada from 28th September – 3rd October. You can view the presentation here.

The EAFI is a tiered assessment framework that will allow seafood buyers to make informed decisions about the produce they buy and supply. Throughout the 4 years of the SEAT project, environmental, economic, social and ethical data has been collected for farming methods of the different species within the project countries:

  • Bangladesh,
  • China,
  • Thailand and
  • Vietnam.

This data has been used to identify species and country specific indicators which are then developed into a simple, tiered framework.

EAFI tiers

Information provided for Tier 0 for Shrimp farmed in Thailand.

Example of information provided for Tier 0 for Shrimp farmed in Thailand.

Tier 0 gives an overview of the entire value chain for the specific product. At each tier there is a decision point so that users can exit at any time if the information they need is specific and available to answer their question about the products’ ethical or sustainable nature.

At each tier, questions are posed and answered about each of the themes of sustainability (mentioned above). By moving  through the different tiers, as the user progresses, the questions become more specific and information provided is more quantitative (allowing for greater complexity as needed). All the questions have a graduated range of answers or indicators of sustainability which draw on data collected through the lifetime of the project.

Although the EAFI gives information and indicators for all four aspects of sustainability (environmental, economic, social and ethical), weighting of these factors is currently under development (expected to be finished in November, 2013) with a bias towards the ethical/sustainable values of the producers and European consumers. As well as incorporating project data, the EAFI has also been developed through a Delphi process – three iterations of testing with intended end users (eg. supermarket buyers, standards steers and certifiers).

The consultations conducted thus far have resulted in positive feedback about the potential and framework approach of the EAFI, while the main comments from buyers have been to keep it as simple as possible. The inclusion of ethics and the whole value chain approach have all been praised as well as has the independent, iterative process. It is important to remember that the EAFI is not intended to be an accreditation scheme, but rather a tool for use when making initial considerations.

SEAT would like to encourage feedback on how you would use the EAFI so if you have any comments or questions, please contact us.

Photo © Loni Hensler