Promoting Collaboration and Partnership for Social Issues at the 2016 Seafood Summit
Photo credit: Susan Braun
A few weeks ago, a diverse and global group of seafood stakeholders gathered in Malta for the 2016 Seafood Summit, one of the world’s premier conferences on seafood sustainability. During the Summit, stakeholders worked towards a more environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable seafood industry through dialogue and collaboration. There was a strong emphasis on social responsibility during this year’s conference, and building partnerships for addressing human rights abuses in the seafood industry was a prominent topic of discussion.
FishWise Project Director Aurora Alifano moderated the Summit breakout session: “Building Partnerships and Frameworks to Address Human Rights and Labor Issues in Seafood Supply Chains.” Panelists included Brandt Wagner from International Labour Organization (ILO), Jose Estors Carballo from Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Guy Dean from Albion Fisheries Ltd., and Ashley Apel from Fair Trade USA.
The panel opened with Aurora Alifano speaking to the importance of acting upon human rights abuses in the seafood industry, saying “Every attendee has some stake in the seafood sector, therefore we all have a responsibility to do everything possible to protect fisher and worker rights and to remedy labor violations when they occur.” The sentiment was echoed by panelists and attendees, as each described their organization’s work towards preventing human rights abuses and outlined their own key takeaways.
While all of the panelists currently work alongside other organizations, the consensus is that more collaboration is needed. Jose Estors Carballo highlighted the importance of working together to “move forward faster.” FAO is working towards increased collaboration in the seafood industry through a multi-stakeholder forum on issues and solutions regarding seafood labor. Guy Dean – vice president and chief sustainability officer for Albion Fisheries Ltd. and founding member of SeaPact, a group of North American Seafood companies dedicated to improving the global seafood supply chain – called for increased collaboration involving further efforts and actions from North American companies to address social issues. When describing the evolution of his own efforts and actions, Guy stressed the importance of conversations with his UK peers in helping him understand what could be done within his own company. Whether it be multi-stakeholder or multi-regional cooperation, panelists agreed that collaboration is an important step towards preventing human rights abuses.
The Fair Trade USA seafood program is constantly seeking additional tools and information to ensure that its practices are in line with the Fair Trade standard. Ashley Apel discussed the lessons that the seafood industry can learn not only through additional tools but also from other sectors, such as the apparel sector. Seafood can learn many lessons from Fair Trade certified clothing, as well as cotton supply chains. In these supply chains, close relationships often exist between factories and retailers, driving collaborative improvements between critical links in the global supply chain. At the end of the session, Ashley emphasized the human rights and traceability achievements of other sectors, and the extent to which the seafood industry can collaborate and engage with other sectors to better understand and protect human and labor rights in seafood supply chains.
Beyond collaborating and learning from the human rights successes of other industries, stakeholders can support international frameworks that target human rights within seafood supply chains. Brandt Wagner highlighted the importance of the ILO C 188 Work in Fishing Convention, which aims to ensure decent working conditions aboard commercial fishing vessels. The convention will go into effect after three more countries have ratified. This is an important opportunity for stakeholders to help by increasing awareness of the Convention and encouraging ratification. Recognizing that a wide range of actors are needed to address labor abuse, the ILO convened an international expert meeting on labor exploitation in the fishing sector in the Atlantic region. This meeting aimed to further enhance the understanding of international efforts when addressing labor exploitation in the fishing sector, allowing for open exchange of best practices and identifying opportunities for cooperation among key actors.Given the importance of this issue, ILO will continue to facilitate additional discussions on global supply chains. Keep an eye out on the ILO website to learn more.