On Monday, July 27th, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 774: Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing Enforcement Act of 2015 by voice vote. The bill is now awaiting Senate decision. If passed, this bi-partisan legislation would combat IUU fishing activities by:
- Strengthening enforcement by building domestic capacity for monitoring and identifying IUU activities
- Creating stiffer penalties for vessels caught illegally fishing in U.S. waters
- Implementing legislation needed for the U.S. to ratify the United Nations Port States Measures Agreement (PSMA)
The PSMA is an international treaty to close ports to foreign vessels engaged in IUU activities. The agreement will decrease the incentive for IUU fishing and help prevent illicitly caught seafood from entering legitimate seafood markets.
The U.S. Senate voted to approve the PSMA back in April 2014, but Congress still needs to pass implementing legislation before the U.S. can ratify the treaty. Currently, there are 14 countries that have ratified the PSMA. The treaty will enter into force once it has been ratified by 25 nations.
To learn more about ways to address IUU fishing, visit the FishWise Traceability & IUU Fishing Resources page.
As part of FishWise’s ongoing efforts to track news related to Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, we are closely monitoring updates to the European Commission’s IUU watch list.
The European Commission (EC) issues “yellow cards” and “red cards” to nations that have not taken sufficient action to control IUU activity in their waters or by their flagged vessels. Yellow cards serve as a formal warning to countries that the Commission wants to see time-bound improvement in their anti-IUU governance, while a red card can include economic sanctions and trade measures. Countries that have been yellow carded have 6 months to show improved structural and legal reforms to their fisheries management, monitoring, and enforcement systems. If the EC decides a country has made insufficient progress after 6 months, the country will be given a red card and potentially banned from importing fishery products into the European Union.
Nations with red cards:
- Sri Lanka
Nations with yellow cards:
- Papua New Guinea
- Solomon Islands
- Saint Kitts & Nevis
- Saint Vincent & Grenadines
The following nations were previously yellow carded but have made credible progress in improving their fisheries governance and combatting IUU, and have subsequently been removed from the EC’s IUU watch list:
- South Korea
For further details about the European Commission’s anti-IUU fishing program, please see the Commission’s news page.
As fishery yields decline the demand for cheap labor aboard fishing vessels and in seafood processing facilities is increasing. Egregious violations like human trafficking, debt bondage, and forced labor are the result of this demand. The occurrence of Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing has been estimated at 11-26 million tons of global production annually, which may account for up to a quarter of the global catch. Recently investigators discovered seafood on American supermarket shelves supplied by slave labor.
Human rights and labor abuses in the seafood supply chain are drawing increasing attention in the media and among industry executives. As consumers and producers grow aware of the shocking reality of seafood production in some parts of the world, businesses are stepping up to address these issues.
FishWise's human rights expert, Aurora Alifano, helped organize a webinar on human rights in the seafood supply chain through SeafoodSource.com, a major news outlet for the seafood industry. Alifano served as a panelist alongside Libby Woodhatch of UK's Seafish and Maya Spaull of Fair Trade USA. The panelists addressed seafood industry leaders and nonprofit organizations working on human rights in the seafood sector, encouraging collaboration and presenting practical solutions to this global challenge.
Seafood companies can reduce human rights abuses by becoming more familiar with every level within their supply chains. Convoluted and multi-stage supply chains can make the problem seem overwhelming, but there are several actions companies can take, including: creating a policy on human rights, working to improve supply chain traceability, and increasing communication with vendors.
Seafood companies can further reduce the risk of human rights abuses in supply chains by:
• Supporting improvements to seafood traceability and supply chain transparency.
• Auditing for labor violations on vessels (by physically boarding the vessel and analyzing visual evidence of facilities onboard).
• Making plans to work with suppliers and to leverage change.
• Identifying opportunities to work with governments, NGOs, and other industry actors to identify risk areas, encourage effective policies, and set timelines for improvements.
• Reviewing case studies on best practices.
• Empowering and supporting small-scale fishermen.
FishWise recommends that seafood businesses share concerns regarding human trafficking and forced labor with suppliers and discuss improvements that suppliers can implement with agreed-upon timelines.
Seafood Source Premium members can listen to the webinar recording here. Not a member? Sign up for the Premium Membership Free Trial for a week to watch the webinar recording and access other Premium information.
My name is Rachael Confair and I am pleased to have joined the FishWise Team. I am a Project Manager working with the Traceability and IUU project team under Mariah Boyle, the Division’s Director. I look forward to working with such a great team and meeting the rest of the FishWise community!
My path to FishWise is not straightforward, but looking back there is a clear route towards sustainable fishing. I grew up in Cape Canaveral, Florida, where my love for the ocean sparked my interest in human impacts on our natural resources. Fast-forward, my undergraduate education is in Conservation Biology and in English from Arizona State University. I worked as a Camp Instructor at the Phoenix Zoo, educating the public of all ages about the natural world. While an undergraduate, I ran a project studying the impacts of UV-B on an Antarctic plant species, but it was policy and working alongside industry that I enjoyed the most.
After college, I worked in Washington, D.C. with two non-profit organizations focusing on sustainability and wildlife conservation, but ended up back in Arizona working in the public sector as an inspector. Working in food safety was both challenging and encouraging. I was on the ground level, witnessing everyday problems that impacted operators, while working within their capacity limits and improving food safety.
This experience inspired me to visit a successful women’s aquaculture cooperative in Nepal. After witnessing first hand the importance of keeping the balance between natural resources and human livelihoods, I was inspired to return to school for a master’s in international policy at Middlebury Institute for International Studies. My graduate research focused on illegal fishing and the means to prevent illicitly caught goods from entering our domestic market and preventing economic hardship on vulnerable fishing communities.
I am excited to build on my past experiences by helping FishWise partners achieve their sustainability and traceability goals.
The recent release of the U.S. State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report revealed the extent of forced labor and human trafficking taking place in the seafood industry. The global demand for inexpensive seafood drives some countries to operate within the realm of modern day slavery, exploiting victims with coercion and false descriptions of what life will be like on these fishing vessels.
The report features a four-tier system in which each country receives a ranking that reflects a government’s actions to combat human trafficking within their nation. From Belize to Burundi, it was made apparent that human rights violations are a sizable problem in the seafood industry, both at sea and on land. While there has been a lot of press around Thailand due to its second consecutive year at the lowest tier ranking and its issuance of a ‘yellow card’ by the European Union over illegal fishing earlier this year, other countries also received the lowest ranking in this report that need international pressure to encourage improvements.
In Belize, migrants come in search of work and many will fall victim to forced labor in the fishing industry. Across the Atlantic, children and young adults in Burundi are trafficked into the fishing industry, often by their own family members, neighbors or friends who recruit them under false pretenses. In Comoros, children on the island of Anjouan are forced into the fishing industry. The Republic of the Marshall Islands, which sells fishing rights to other nations, was downgraded to the lowest ranked tier this year. These islands have become a destination where East Asian women and girls are recruited into prostitution with crew members who dock on foreign fishing vessels. Belize supplies the U.S. with lobster and the Marshall Islands are a key source of bigeye tuna, supplying the United States with 862 tons in 2014. This reminds us that the problem exists beyond Thailand and engagement with these supply chains is needed.
This is a critical time for the U.S. Government to assert its priorities in addressing human trafficking occurring in the global fishing market.
In the TIP Report, the U.S. government recommends that countries accused of human rights violations offer protective services for victims, develop and conduct anti-trafficking education and awareness raising campaigns, and undertake research to study human trafficking within their country. Human rights and environmental NGOs suggest these governments conduct frequent at-sea inspections of fishing vessels, train inspectors on identifying and addressing the needs of trafficking victims, and enforce strict penalties on the trade of fraudulent crew manifests and identification documents at ports. Now that the State Department has illuminated the unlawful and inhumane activities occurring in seafood supply chains, it’s time for government, NGOs, industry, and consumers to all work together to combat the use of modern day slavery in this industry.
To learn how consumers and companies can help prevent human trafficking and forced labor in seafood supply chains read our Q&A.
For more information regarding these issues please visit our Human Rights Resources page.