2015 World Seafood Congress Sparks Global Dialogue on Seafood Ethics
Sustainable seafood experts and stakeholders from over 23 countries recently gathered at the 2015 World Seafood Congress in Grimsby, UK to discuss developments in the fishing industry. The theme of this year’s conference was ‘Upskilling for a Sustainable Future’ and brought together international attendees from the seafood industry, NGOs, academia, and government to explore various issues in seafood trade, innovation, and sustainability.
One featured topic at the Congress was seafood ethics, including the social challenges that exist in our seafood supply chains. FishWise’s Traceability Division Director Mariah Boyle addressed the urgent issue of human rights abuses in the fishing industry with a presentation on protecting labor rights. Mariah highlighted the actions companies can take to reduce the risk of sourcing products associated with these abuses:
- Increase transparency in their supply chains
- Maintain direct communication regarding concerns of labor violations with their vendors
- Provide clear information about their products’ origins and the actions taken to guarantee products are not connected to human rights abuses, labor violations, or environmental damage with their customers.
Consumers have become more aware of these issues from recent prominent media coverage and have pushed for industry action through lawsuits against major corporations Costco and Nestle, whose seafood products have been linked to forced labor. As daunting as the issues of human rights abuses seem, they are being addressed through efforts in the global fishing industry and progress is possible. In the United States, one positive step is the implementation of the CA Supply Chain Transparency Act, which requires large companies operating in California (with gross worldwide sales of over $100 million) to disclose their efforts to eliminate forced human labor and trafficking in their supply chains. The launch of the world’s first Fair Trade USA certified wild capture fishery is another step forward as the certification includes both social and environmental criteria.
One prominent attendee of the event was Benjamin Smith, Senior Officer for Corporate Social Responsibility at International Labour Organization (ILO), who spoke about ILO’s work in Thailand on the Good Labour Practices (GLP) Program. Other expert presenters on the topic of seafood ethics included Libby Woodhatch from Seafish, speaking on their new Responsible Fishing Scheme, independent ethics consultant Roger Plant, who presented on a new report on ethical issues impacting UK seafood supply chains, and the UK’s first Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner Kevin Hyland. Roger concluded with the finding that the seafood industry needs a code of conduct on social responsibility.
2015 World Seafood Congress Group Picture – Photo Credit: Intrafish