Seafood production and procurement can be a complicated business.

And customers increasingly want reassurance around the provenance of the produce they are buying.

In the case of seafood, that includes questions around its sustainability, impact on the marine environment and treatment of employees.

That has led the seafood industry to launch OpenSeas, a one-stop source for information that was unveiled at the Seafood New Zealand annual conference in Wellington yesterday.

Until now it has been difficult to access credible, reliable and up-to-date material in one place.

OpenSeas is a third-party verified, broad-based transparency initiative designed to enable customers of New Zealand seafood, primarily internationally, a single, comprehensive source of information about the environmental, social and production credentials of the New Zealand seafood industry.

Programme Manager Jodie Campbell says OpenSeas, is a first of its kind transparency initiative that has been a year in the making and brought together over 20 industry experts and five regulatory agencies to contribute to nearly 40 pages of website content.

“OpenSeas does not purport to verify individual product claims but it is a systematic collation of available information.” 

That information includes New Zealand's approach to sustainable use of its vast marine environment, the systems and processes used to ensure supply chain integrity and the legal protections for the welfare of workers and indigenous communities involved in seafood production.

The site also features individual species profiles, which include the most up-to-date harvest details and independent environmental certification or risk assessment scores.

“OpenSeas focuses on presenting short, digestible pieces of information about the New Zealand seafood industry, allowing users to retain and reuse the information within their own businesses,” Jodie said.

“Ultimately, it should enable customers of New Zealand seafood to make informed choices in line with their own sourcing policies.”

Sitting behind the site, is a full suite of reports, supplementary documentation (such as standards, certificates and guidance), legislation and digital references.  These details can be found by navigating through the site, empowering users to access the necessary level of detail they require. All information on the site is traceable back to the source document.

James Whittaker, head of responsible sourcing and quality at the Australian supermarket giant Coles, told the conference product safety, quality and responsible sourcing are paramount in satisfying 21 million customers a week across 800 stores.

Coles assurance programme was drawn on in developing OpenSeas.

The programme is made to be shared. Links, factsheets, reports and references can be found throughout the site.   The professionally designed format makes it easy to download, share softcopies and print hardcopies.

OpenSeas is designed to assist business to business dialogue but is open, free of charge, for anyone to use.

It is currently undergoing independent certification for the programme's Quality Management System.  Achieving certification will be a reflection of the programme's commitment to meeting the information needs of businesses while ensuring accuracy and transparency are not compromised. The aim is to achieve certification within the first six months of the programme.

For more information about the programme, visit www.openseas.org.nz or contact hello@openseas.org.nz.

Keynote speaker Sir Ray Avery, noted entrepreneur and philanthropist, told the conference the signs were consumers were going to turn away from red meat.

“That is good news for you in a business that doesn’t use up resources,” he said.

‘If you believe you can be the greatest seafood exporters in the world, you can do it. You have to have a plan and work together.”

British-born Sir Ray said New Zealand was a country of innovators and Kiwis shared three characteristics – not fond of rules, no respect for the status quo and daring to dream.