Pefa: using technology to increase the sustainability, transparency and profitability of fisheries

Pefa Auction Clock, a service of Pefa and the first auction system for fresh fish to use the Internet, revolutionized Europe’s seafood industry in terms of its transparency, fisheries monitoring and sustainability. It has helped governments to better monitor the status of their fisheries as well as helping to stabilize the seafood market to the benefit of fisher-folk and buyers alike. Adeyemi Ademiluyi (Seafood Trade Intelligence Portal (STIP)) talked with Gijsbert Spek, managing director of Pefa, about the influence of Pefa Auction Clock in the market.

“At the start of digital auctioning most of the buyers were still local and on-site despite the technical capabilities of the systems, even the remote buyers were from the area. It took a while for the international purchases to take hold. People, stuck in their old ways, did not believe that it would be a fair system; they thought that your chances of getting a good deal were higher in the auction house. As people got more used to the Internet and buying on the Internet, and with the new generations coming into the companies, these fears started to subside.”

Increasing transparency and stabilizing prices
“I can’t prove it but I think digital auctions have helped to stabilize price developments and make it fairer for everyone, which is good for the market. You can no longer see who is buying- back in the day, when you were in the auction room, you saw everybody. You knew that every week Bob bought 10 tons of salmon, and you saw that he had already bought his 10 for the week. You knew that he was complete, so you knew the playing field and could bid accordingly. Now, you can still see who has bought what, but you don’t know who is looking and who might have a big client for a certain product; it makes it harder to underbid.”

“Digital auctions opened up competition, on both the side of the buyer and the seller, ensuring fairer prices that are closer to market value. There is no monopoly as there are always other buyers and other sellers. For the fisherman, it gives them a big market reach and access to a lot of buyers both local and remote. It also creates a lot of competition for them, with buyers being able to source products from several different auctions in different countries simultaneously.”

“Digital auctions also made fish sales more transparent from day one. Everything is monitored, recorded and out in the open. Who is catching what kind of fish, where they are catching it, how much they are catching, what prices it is going for and what method they are using? If you have a fish company in Italy, and you are buying from the Netherlands, you know that they buy their fish from auction; it’s the only place that they can buy a fish. If you have access to the secured part of the Pefa website, where you can see the prices that your supplier is paying for the fish, it changes things.”

Fisheries management policies and sustainability
“It also helps governments manage fisheries and fishing quotas. Auctions are obliged to disclose catches, as are the fishermen. Before, auctions would send a physical disk every week. Then it changed to email. Now governments have access to landing reports in real time. The level of detail and the reliability of the data have also increased and the data gets used in monitoring, policy development and to write reports and publications.”

“Back in the days when I began in the world of seafood auctions we didn’t talk about sustainability or traceability; it was not an acknowledged issue. What we saw in the use of the Internet was the potential of new buyers from abroad having access to our fish auctions. That has changed over the years; sustainability has become more and more important in the fish industry. Transparency as well, but transparency has always been built into our way of working in the fish business- everything is registered. We have always had the vision that everything should be as transparent as possible; that transparency is the best solution for the market.”

This is an edited version. Please go to Undercurrent News to read more.