Project number: 2016-177
Project Status:
Budget expenditure: $265,000.00
Principal Investigator: Laurie B. Bonney
Organisation: University of Tasmania (UTAS)
Project start/end date: 31 May 2017 - 16 Jul 2019


The need for traceability was first prioritised in strategic planning by SRL because of a bloom in harmful algae (HABs). These events in 2013 occurred during a closed season but highlighted the vulnerability of the industry to the lack of traceability - a bloom in the open season and subsequent recall would have led to all. Australian product being recalled, not just lobsters from affected areas. The impact would have been catastrophic. The need is now recognised to be wider than HABs and includes risk management options for food safety incidents beyond toxic algal blooms, compliance with changes to requirements of importing countries, business-to-business and business-to-consumer verification of food safety, quality, and sustainability credentials. Traceability also enables the industry to look back at harvesting operations - what locations and practices led to the best product delivered to consumers?

Seafood is the most highly traded food commodity globally, and yet there is very little traceability in any seafood supply chain, or country of origin labelling at the point of market, including those used for live Australian Southern Rock Lobster (ASRL). A successful project will lead the seafood industry in traceability, providing a lead for other seafood industries. Improved technical traceability may also open up new markets such as the European Union - currently no SRL operators are accredited for lobster export to the EU.

The main need at present is the Chinese market by the introduction of a tagging/traceability system to clearly identify and differentiate ASRL in the China market from other imported lobster. Indeed, actions to address traceability forms part of the first priority issue within Objective 1 (“Add value along the supply chain from fisher to customer”) within SRL’s SRL’s Strategy 2022, and previously Strategic Plan 2011-16. These type of requirements are increasingly being applied for traded food and are evolving. A traceability system for ASRL would also facilitate compliance with the Global Seafood Sustainability Initiative (GSSI) emerging.


1. Traceability/sensor technologies integrated in chains
2. Traceability system validated
3. Traceability system value proposition(s) determined.

Final report

ISBN: 978-0-646-81652-4
Authors: Laurie Bonney Luke Mirowski Ryan Day Mikaela Seabourne Shayden vanWinden Sumit Verma Son Anh Vo Caleb Gardner Paul Turner
Final Report • 2020-09-08 • 5.81 MB


This document is the final report of the project (FRDC 2016-177) ‘Traceability Systems for Wild Caught Lobsters’. It has been prepared by researchers from University of Tasmania.
The project ‘Traceability Systems for Wild Caught Lobster, via Sense-T and Pathways to Market’ aims to contribute to improving traceability and product provenance within the wild caught Southern Rock Lobster supply chain. The project was divided into two phases:
  • Phase One: a multidisciplinary scoping phase previously completed (FRDC 2016-228) and,
  • Phase Two: a system design and trial evaluation phase that is the focus of this final report (FRDC 2016-177)
The overall project arises from changes to international and national settings relevant to the SRL industry. In particular, the China Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) is a key driver, as changes in the Chinese market will continue to impact on the way lobster are traded to China into the future. In designing the overall project, the research team considered earlier FRDC/ASCRC (Australian Seafood Cooperative Research Centre) project reports and these included: 2012/704, 2012/705, 2012/741, 2010/716, CRC Supply Chain Technology Report. Other project reports the team were aware of prior to conducting this research proposal included: 2012/702, 2011/748, 2012/703, 2008/790, 2007/700, 2007/708.
Using the framework developed in Phase One (FRDC 2016-228), Phase Two was designed to accommodate differential levels of existing traceability amongst businesses of different sizes along the rock lobster supply chain. As a consequence, the investigation and enhancement of traceability was conducted at three different levels reflecting differential needs/capacity of industry participants:
  • Batch level;
  • Batch level with individual tagging;
  • Item level with individual tagging.
These different levels of traceability were then investigated and implemented using a variety of systems and technologies in six work programs structured as follows:
  • WP1 - Batch Level Traceability (boat/truck/processor)
  • WP2 - Batch Level Traceability with Individual Tagging (processor)
  • WP3 - Batch Level Traceability with Individual Tagging (boat)
  • WP4 - Batch Level Traceability with Individual Tagging (processor/overseas processor)
  • WP5 - Item Level traceability with individual tagging (boat/truck/processor)
  • WP6 - Item Level traceability with individual tagging (processor/overseas processor)
Results and Outputs
Through engagement with the industry the team have developed a tailored approach to SRL traceability systems supported by policies and procedures, data models and a series of benchmarking checklists.
The research has also produced several digital tools and techniques that have been deployed as part of the trial and evaluation work conducted with industry. These trials and their evaluation are presented as a series of case studies presented throughout this section of the report. The case studies provide standards and practical advice on how to implement and achieve defined levels of traceability. This work is based on the globally recognised GSM1 standards and was customised for the SRL industry through survey and engagement with the industry across South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria.
The combined insights from this research work have also been integrated into two standalone guides for on-going use by the SRL industry:
  1. The traceability implementation guide aims to directly support industry to improve their traceability practises:
  2. The traceability systems and technology products guide provides insights into suitable tools to support traceability at different levels and at different points along the supply chain.
This project has raised awareness of the importance of traceability within and along the southern rock lobster supply chain. The research team have engaged with the industry on their current practices and identified and demonstrated through trial and evaluation a range of mechanisms, tools and techniques to enhance SRL traceability systems. The production of a ‘Traceability Implementation’ guide provides the SRL industry with a genuine opportunity to take a step forward to ‘better traceability practises’ and it opens up the possibility for the industry to consider the development of an industry traceability platform for coordination and integration of an industry-wide traceability system built on GS1 standards.
Based on the results and outputs from this project it is evident that there are still several challenges to the implementation of standard industry-wide traceability practises. However, this project has raised awareness and demonstrated a way forward to achieving this goal. To that end, the following recommendations can be made:
  • Continued consultation and engagement with industry stakeholders to strengthen the desire and willingness to progress traceability improvements across the industry. The benefits of traceability and the value it adds to the fishery are well recognised, indicating that further research into the development and implementation of specific, actionable traceability system elements will likely be well received.
  • The occurrence of harmful algal blooms such as Alexandrium tamarense, which cause the build-up of paralytic shellfish toxin, will force the industry to adopt some system of traceability or face closures and brand damage. As blooms have been limited to Tasmania thus far, this segment of the SRL industry is at particular risk. The implementation of at least batch level traceability with evidence of where lobsters were caught will help to mitigate this risk.
  • Further research into the development of tagging approaches and alternatives should be a priority. Tagging lobsters with unique identifiers is a critical element of any highly precise traceability system. Unfortunately, it is also labour intensive and time consuming and represents a barrier to acceptance and uptake by the industry. The development of a new tagging approaches or even ‘tagless techniques’ hold promise and should continue to be investigated.
  • Brand differentiation between rock lobsters is a potential area of growth for the SRL industry. Although the SRL industry considers itself to be producing a premium product, the reality is that there is currently no differentiation between SRL and other rock lobsters at markets and wholesalers in China. Further development of the SRL brand and provenance can take advantage of this and position SRL as a prestige product.
  • Industry members expressed enthusiasm for the development of water quality monitoring devices that can be incorporated into traceability systems. The understanding and management of water quality is variable across the industry, so tools that assist the measurement and recording of water quality will help to improve holding practises as well as provide evidence of good care of stock along the supply chain.
Project Extension
Building on these recommendations is the idea of developing a traceability software platform which could integrate batch and item level technologies along the supply chain and underpin SRL quality and safety auditing programmes. The key elements of this platform have been trialled as part of this existing project so there is a genuine opportunity to significantly extend this platform to all industry participants and to facilitate moving the whole industry forward in its adoption of traceability better practises.
Another important area for consideration for project extension results from on-going doctoral research that has been aligned to this research project. This PhD research is continuing to explore new technologies using digital image processing to develop approaches for ‘tagless’ hybrid traceability solutions integrating automatic grading with biometric identification through use of computer vision and AI for use along the rock lobster supply chain including for providing provenance authentication information to end-consumers.

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