31 retailers and seafood companies call on labor ministers to implement ILO Working in Fishing Convention

The Seafood Ethics Action Alliance (SEA Alliance) has initiated a campaign asking labor ministers in countries that have not yet ratified the ILO Working in Fishing Convention 188 (C.188) to push their governments to do so.

The SEA Alliance is a seafood industry pre-competitive collaboration whose members include 11 of the largest supermarket chains in the United Kingdom, collectively representing 95 percent of all retail seafood sales in the U.K. The group’s mission is to address human rights issues and improve labor standards in the seafood supply chain through advocacy and improvement of due diligence processes.

Its announcement was made on Wednesday, 26 April at the 2023 Seafood Expo Global in Barcelona, Spain.

“Fishers play a critical role in global food security but aren’t being protected in the way they should be,” Sea Alliance Head Andy Hickman said in a press release. “Companies like those in the SEA Alliance have a critical role to play in undertaking human rights due diligence in seafood supply chains, and supporting remedy for workers that aren’t being treated properly. Our commitments will seek to set out the specific time-bound actions companies should take to ensure fishers in their supply chains are treated with respect, and we will be working with fishers organizations, NGOs, and fishing sector representatives to develop them.”

ILO Convention 188 is an international agreement intended to protect the rights of fishers and ensure that they are working safely and are treated with dignity and respect. The convention language includes minimum requirements concerning occupational safety and health, rest periods, written work agreements, and social security protection. C.188 also addresses regulation of the recruitment process and investigation of complaints by fishers.

Countries that ratify C.188 commit to monitoring and oversight of fishing vessels by inspection, reporting, monitoring, complaint procedures, penalties, and corrective measures. Countries may also inspect foreign fishing vessels visiting their ports.

Despite being in force since 2017, the convention has so far only been ratified by a limited number of countries – meaning many workers in the supply chains of SEA Alliance member-companies are not yet covered by its protections.

“Effective regulation and enforcement is critical to ensuring decent work in seafood supply chains. As well as companies taking steps to assess and improve labor standards in their supply chains, we urgently need to see more governments come onboard with C.188 and the other key agreements that will protect these vital workers in global food supply chains,” Hilton Foods Ethics and Social Sustainability Senior Manager Julia Black said.

Spain, a major supplying country for international seafood markets and host of this year’s Seafood Expo Global, became the 21st country to ratify the convention earlier in 2023, and in its letter, the SEA Alliance is calling on other countries to follow suit.

Also on 26 April, the SEA Alliance announced the creation of a set of joint commitments and actions for companies relating to human rights and labour standards in seafood supply chains.

The joint commitments under development by the SEA Alliance are a way to ensure companies are taking responsibility for their own supply-chains, in addition to advocating for ratification of ILO C. 188. The development of the commitments will include consultation and working with fishing-sector representatives, workers organizations, NGOs, and seafood businesses. The SEA Alliance is already in partnerships with the Food Network for Ethical Trade, the Global Tuna Alliance, the Sustainable Seafood Coalition, Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, and the International Transport Workers Federation on developing and rolling out the commitments.

“Creating actionable, impactful commitments on complex issues like human rights and fair labor can be a daunting process, but SEA Alliance companies recognize the need for industry leadership in this space and this is an opportunity to not only support our own members, but help any company interested in more responsible supply chains,” Caterers Choice Ethical Trading Manager Georgia Worrall said.

Photo courtesy of Seafood Ethics Action Alliance


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