FishWise report outlines steps to improve labor conditions at sea

Published on
March 15, 2019

Nonprofit seafood sustainability consultancy FishWise has released a report providing suggestions for ways seafood companies can improve vessel monitoring and transparency.

The report, “Open Water: Guidance on Vessel Transparency for Seafood Companies,” recommends companies obtain an International Maritime Organization (IMO) number for each fishing vessel, be proactive in transferring data to public vessel lists, and support the implementation of international agreements related to illegal fishing, improving vessel safety and standards, and protecting workers.

The report was issued in response to growing concern for the treatment of fishing crews on the high seas, including from U.S. government agencies, FishWise CEO Tobias Aguirre said in a press release.

“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,” Aguirre said.

Improving vessel monitoring and transparency is an important step towards reducing illegal activities in the fishing industry, including human rights abuses, seafood fraud, document forgery, bribery, and money laundering. Crimes that take place on the high seas are beyond the jurisdiction of national governments, and therefore are subject to very little oversight, Aguirre said. In urging seafood firms to increase their support and adoption of initiatives and agreements to improve vessel transparency, FishWise hopes to decrease human rights and safety violation amongst distant-water fishing fleets. 

The recommendations included in the report will be incorporated into FishWise’s new web platform designed to give seafood companies a step-by-step guide to improving the labor practices in their supply chains. The Roadmap for Improving Seafood Ethics, or RISE, developed with support from the Walmart Foundation, is a free open-access website offering “concrete steps for companies, practical implementation tools, and connections to real people at organizations with deep expertise in understanding and improving labor practices,” the company said.

“Businesses are increasingly focused on social issues, and companies committed to the fair treatment of workers shouldn’t have to guess at the responsibility of their supply chains,” FishWise said. “The aim of RISE is to help increase knowledge on how to assess risk and to provide access to resources and information to companies seeking to increase the social sustainability of their seafood supply chains.”

Tri Marine, North Atlantic, and Stavis Seafoods, have already committed to using RISE, along with non-governmental organizations including Conservation International and Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program. 

“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,” Walmart Foundation Senior Director Karrie Denniston said. “We are proud to support FishWise, [which] has taken a leadership role in integrating and advancing research, learnings and collaboration to create a better seafood sourcing industry.”

FishWise will debut the platform on 18 March at the 2019 Seafood Expo North America in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.

Photo courtesy of FishWise

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