Tackling Human Rights, IUU Fishing, and Traceability in Seafood- A collaborative effort!

Created on Monday, 02 February 2015

By Aurora Alifano

The current wave of globalization is dramatically increasing recognition of business ethics and the seafood industry is no exception. Recent exposure of environmental and social issues has prompted seafood companies to adopt responsible business practices.

As fishery yields go down, demand for inexpensive seafood workers goes up and shocking violations like human trafficking and forced labor are the result. The occurrence of Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing was estimated at 11-26 million tons of global production, which accounts for about 11-28% of the global catch.

Fortunately, there are many programs, organizations, and efforts working on different aspects of IUU fishing and seafood traceability. The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and FishWise convened two strategy meetings in October 2014 to connect stakeholders from different sectors and encourage collaboration on these topics. Expert representatives from the seafood industry, U.S. government, environmental and social NGOs, and philanthropic foundations gathered to share their current understanding of these issues while planning future efforts.


The meetings were an important step in a series of conversations on how to address human rights, IUU fishing, and traceability in the seafood industry. With improved coordination resulting from the meetings we expect to be able to make even more progress on these topics in the coming year. This is an inspiring time to engage with sustainable seafood as key stakeholders join efforts to make substantial improvements.

Commonalities among organizational missions and goals became apparent when participants were asked to envision that they had been wildly successful in addressing human rights, IUU fishing, and traceability. Common themes for a successful future included:

Human Rights

  • A dramatic reduction in the prevalence of crimes such as human trafficking and forced labor through law enforcement and transparent prosecutions
  • A transformation in the way the labor arrives in the seafood industry that diminishes deception, coercion, and corrupted labor recruitment schemes
  • An increase in the percent of the workforce that is documented, protected, valued, and aware of their rights

Download meeting notes (PDF)

IUU fishing and traceability

  • Improved enforcement on the water including prosecution of illegal behavior, mandatory and self-motivated vessel tracking, unique vessel identifiers, real-time vessel monitoring, and digital catch certificates
  • Increased accountability throughout the supply chain, including the ability to reward good actors, especially within the middle of the supply chain
  • The removal of barriers for countries requiring technological or capacity improvements to address IUU fishing

Download meeting notes (PDF)

Participants worked to develop two-year action plans that focus on industry action, policy, data and technology, and audit verification systems. The group agreed that improving traceability will help seafood companies identify areas of high risk and address products associated with illegal fishing and mistreatment of crew and supply chain workers.

This exciting work will continue as FishWise organizes webinars and events to encourage discussion and collaboration. The next conversations will take place at the Seafood Summit in New Orleans February 2015. We encourage interested parties to attend the plenary presentation Preventing Human Rights Abuses in Seafood Supply Chains and the pre-conference workshop Minimum Requirements and Best Practices for Traceability to better understand these issues and current efforts to address them. If you would like to learn more about upcoming events, have any questions, or want to become involved, please contact traceability@fishwise.org.