A Greenpeace film critical of alleged human rights abuses in the global tuna supply chain has received interest from a major streaming platform.
The movie investigates human rights issues onboard tuna-fishing vessels, and makes allegations of physical abuse, wage theft, excessive mandatory work, fraudulent activity by vessel operators and manning agencies, and environmental misbehavior including shark-finning. It directly names Bumble Bee, Chicken of the Sea, and Starkist as having some or all of these issues in their supply chains.
A screening of the movie, “Before You Eat,” took place onboard the Greenpeace vessel Arctic Sunrise on 5 September in San Diego, California, U.S.A., less than two miles from Bumble Bee’s U.S. headquarters, according to the Times of San Diego. Greenpeace USA Oceans Campaign Director John Hocevar said at the event the 100-minute film is his organization’s latest effort to hold the world’s largest tuna companies accountable for problems in their supply chains.
“We expect that we will eventually see this on a streaming platform in the United States,” Hocevar said. “I won’t predict how many people end up seeing it, but it’ll be available widely.”
In 2021, the Netflix documentary “Seaspiracy” purported to investigate the impact of commercial fishing on marine ecosystems and wildlife. It was one of the streaming platforms most popular releases of the year and drew positive responses from celebrities including Kourtney Kardashian, Tom Brady, and Paul McCartney. The film was criticized by prominent figures in the seafood industry for offering a misleading characterization of the industry and the sustainable seafood movement.
Another film made available on Netflix in 2020, “My Octopus Teacher,” was blamed for advancing misinformation about octopus intelligence, causing many consumers to stop eating octopus.
Greenpeace Southeast Asia Oceans Campaign Lead Arifsyah Naution was the executive producer of “Before You Eat.” She collaborated with Serikat Buruh Migran Indonesia (Indonesian Migrant Workers Union) in producing the film, which received financial support from Greenpeace.
The screening came as part of Greenpeace’s End Modern Slavery campaign, which includes a petition drive that has attracted more than 50,000 signatures. The petition, delivered 7 September to Bumble Bee’s headquarters, calling on it and its Taiwan-based owner Fong Chun Formosa (FCF), to stop sourcing tuna from vessels that exploit workers and the environment.
“[They] are some of the biggest players in the global seafood supply chain. They have power and influence they can leverage to make substantive changes in the industry’s notoriously murky seafood supply chain. But while their profits grow, they have done little to change the situation,” Greenpeace Taiwan Ocean Campaigner Yuton Lee said in a press release. “It can’t be business as usual while people suffer.”
Greenpeace is also calling on world governments to adopt a human rights due diligence process aligned with the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, to publish transparent reports outlining their oversight of fishing vessels and their operations, to strengthen observer protections, to establish a time-bound plan to phase out transshipment, and more broadly, to ratify the Global Ocean Treaty and to protect 30 percent of the oceans by 2030.
Greenpeace has presented multiple reports in the past five years alleging abuse in tuna supply chains, which have been labeled as “misleading” by industry leaders. Lee said tuna firms including Bumble Bee are not doing enough to reform themselves.
“Bumble Bee has positioned itself as a champion for sustainability and advocate for fishers, while also ignoring the very real suffering of the workers in its supply chain and the environmental impact of harmful fishing practices,” Lee said.
A Bumble Bee spokesperson said the company was working to improve its practices, echoing previous statements made to SeafoodSource.
“Although we do not agree with many of the Greenpeace allegations, we do acknowledge that more progress is needed to ensure responsible labor practices are followed on all tuna vessels,” the spokesperson said. “The Bumble Bee Seafood Company continues to work within our supply chain, with others in the industry and with the Seafood Task Force to advocate for the responsible recruitment and treatment of all workers and to reduce IUU fishing worldwide.”
However, Greenpeace a year ago released a study that directly ties Bumble Bee, and other companies, to such practices.
In response, Greenpeace USA Senior Human Rights Advisor for Global Fishing Sari Heindrich told the Times of San Diego Bumble Bee must do more to reform its practices.
“Words are cheap, and for each day that passes with little action from Bumble Bee, fishers in the seafood supply chain work in brutal and inhumane conditions, and our oceans deteriorate,” Heindrich said. “Bottom of Form
The incremental changes they are touting won’t produce real results in their supply chain. Bumble Bee must do a better job of living its claimed values by taking bold and immediate action to lead a significant transformation in the seafood industry.”
Hocevar criticized Bumble Bee’s “Trace My Catch” traceability initiative – saying it “doesn’t seem like it works very well really much of the time.” But he acknowledged Greenpeace’s longstanding efforts to push the tuna sector to change have struggled to succeed.
“Bumble Bee has invested more in PR than they have in solutions, and so our goal at this point is really just to show them that it’s in their own interest to actually become the company that they represent themselves as and that … the way they’ve been operating exposes themselves to enormous risk,” he said.
Photo courtesy of Greenpeace