Read this if your seafood supply chain starts in Thailand
It’s been nearly a year since the U.S. State Department downgraded Thailand to Tier 3 in its Trafficking In Persons (TIP) report, and though there’s been a lot of discussion and some action taken to curb forced labor in Thailand’s fishing industry, the problem remains a serious one.
The annual report is the department’s assessment of countries worldwide who are dealing with what is described as modern-day human slavery, and last year it gave Thailand the equivalent of a failing grade. The 2015 TIP report is due out sometime this month, and it’s anybody’s guess whether Thailand’s status will improve.
Clearly, it’s an ongoing problem for Thailand. The designation, Tier 3, is the lowest grade possible. Thailand received the unflattering designation after several years of being at the report’s Tier 2 Watch level, and several years at Tier 2 before that.
But is the Southeast Asian nation’s government listening? Thai officials point to a big list of new regulations designed to root out forced labor in fisheries. Police continue to make arrests connected to trafficking in the fishing industry, and in at least one case authorities seized fishing vessels, which is also an encouraging sign.
Despite these efforts the problem persists. In April, the Associated Press produced what has perhaps been the most probing report on the subject yet. The AP investigation tracked fish caught by slave laborers on Thai fishing boats to cargo ships in Benjina, a port city in Indonesia. The cargo ships then took the fish to Thailand, where it was offloaded and sent to distributors that serve major seafood providers both in and doing business with the United States and the EU.
It was enough to prompt Thai Union Frozen Products (TUF), one of the companies named as recipients of the slave labor fish, to cut off at least one supplier permanently. The move echoes one by CP Foods last year, which reportedly cut off 9 of their 10 suppliers of fishmeal after an investigation by London-based newspaper The Guardian found those suppliers were using fish caught by forced labor.
It’s a safe bet that most importers won’t sleep well at night after learning that slave labor might be at the other ends of their supply chains, or that their company is named in the latest media expose of the issue.
Keeping your supply chain free of human trafficking can be a challenge from half a world away. SeafoodSource is hosting a webinar next week, on 17 June at 11 a.m., where we’ll discuss what’s changed over the past year on the issue, and experts will offer some practical advice on how to avoid labor abuses in your supply chain. Premium Members can click here to register.