FishWise, a nonprofit sustainable seafood consultancy, has authored a new white paper on human rights abuses in seafood supply chains.
This paper on human rights abuses follows FishWise’s first white paper on seafood traceability. The paper intends to educate seafood businesses and stakeholders on the human rights abuses taking place in seafood supply chains and provide recommendations to improve human and labor rights within the industry.
It is important for companies to focus on social responsibility in supply chains, especially human rights, in order to demonstrate a real commitment to people, planet, and profit. Documentation of human trafficking and forced labor in seafood supply chains has been growing with increasing media attention, nongovernmental organization investigations, and government reports. Discussions of environmental sustainability within the seafood industry are now commonplace, but efforts to improve human rights in the industry are nascent and just beginning to gain the momentum necessary to catalyze real change.
In the last five years, seafood companies have created sustainable seafood sourcing policies, and are now working to meet the commitments within them. Human and labor rights are often not incorporated into these policies for seafood, as the historical focus of such efforts has been on industries such as coffee, minerals, and textiles. The seafood industry is not free of these concerns however, and the time is ripe for companies to expand their policies to address these issues. This is appropriate because environmental sustainability and human rights issues do not operate independently. Vessels and companies operating illegally often commit environmental and social crimes in tandem.
Eliminating human rights abuses in seafood supply chains is not an easy task. Challenges include corruption, exemptions within international standards for fishing vessels, lack of transparency via the use of flags of convenience and transhipment, the globalized nature of the supply chain, lack of enforcement, incomplete traceability, and the prevalence of illegal fishing. Amidst these challenges there are also opportunities. Brand value, shareholder opinion, and corporate social responsibility can benefit from companies addressing this issue in an honest and transparent manner. After improvements have been made, companies can actively promote the associated success stories, such as social and fair trade compliance, engagement in fishery improvements, and support for entrepreneurial ventures in the developing world.
It is hoped that this document will create connections across businesses, organizations, and governments and serve as a call to action to work together to eliminate human rights abuses and illegal products from supply chains. Addressing these issues is the ethical course of action, but also one that will prevent human rights abuses in supply chains from undoing the excellent work to date on the environmental sustainability of seafood.