New Guidance to Protect Seafood Workers, Deter Illegal Fishing, Released

Created on Monday, 25 February 2019

FishWise report outlines steps to improve monitoring and transparency at sea

Santa Cruz, Calif. (February 25, 2019) – Sustainable seafood consultancy FishWise released guidance for supporting improvements to vessel monitoring and transparency, “Open Water: Guidance on Vessel Transparency for Seafood Companies.” Published amid continued concerns regarding human rights at sea, including from U.S. government agencies, the report provides guidance that can be used to support companies in encouraging a more legal and responsible seafood supply through increasing vessel oversight.

Many fishing vessels operate on the high seas, beyond national jurisdiction and where there is little effective oversight. This can allow for illicit activities to occur, including human rights abuses, seafood fraud, document forgery, bribery, and money laundering. Improving vessel monitoring and transparency is an important step towards reducing illegal activities and increasing understanding of vessel activity at sea. Vessel monitoring is achieved through technology that broadcasts vessel location in real-time, while vessel transparency is achieved by the reporting of vessel data, such as ownership, specifications, and unique identification through International Maritime Organization (IMO) numbers.

FishWise identified various steps for companies to take to improve vessel monitoring and transparency, including (but not limited) to the following actions:

  • Requiring all eligible vessels to have an IMO number and electronic vessel monitoring system
  • Encouraging data transfer to public vessel lists
  • Supporting the implementation and adoption of four international agreements related to preventing illegal fishing, improving vessel safety and standards, and protecting workers

By supporting existing initiatives and agreements that could improve vessel transparency, it is hoped that this report will spur action to prevent human rights and safety violations and promote increased monitoring and oversight for distant water fishing fleets. “In order to safeguard human rights and reduce illegal activity at sea, companies – along with NGOs and governments – must commit to initiatives which improve vessel monitoring and transparency,” says Tobias Aguirre, FishWise C.E.O.

Recommendations for vessel transparency included in “Open Water” will also be incorporated in FishWise’s upcoming platform RISE, the Roadmap for Improving Seafood Ethics. RISE, developed with support from the Walmart Foundation and debuting on March 18 at the Seafood Expo North America, is a free, open access website featuring a series of steps that companies may take to improve labor practices in seafood supply chains. Given the particular vulnerability of workers on distant water fishing fleets, the monitoring and transparency guidance proposed in “Open Water” — implemented alongside the suite of other recommendations included in RISE — can be used to improve the responsibility of global seafood sourcing.

“The RISE roadmap and toolkit is an exciting step forward in promoting social responsibility in the seafood industry by increasing transparency of information, sharing practical examples of progress and providing clear options for industry and NGOs working to improve conditions for seafood workers,” said Karrie Denniston, Senior Director, Walmart Foundation. “We are proud to support FishWise who has taken a leadership role in integrating and advancing research, learnings and collaboration to create a better seafood sourcing industry.”

About FishWise

FishWise is a non-profit sustainable seafood consultancy based in Santa Cruz, CA. Uniquely positioned between the seafood industry and marine conservation organizations, FishWise offers a range of services that empower businesses and a diverse community of collaborators to lead the transition to a sustainable, responsible seafood industry. For more information, please visit, and follow FishWise’s work on InstagramFacebook and Twitter.