Major seafood buyers support US proposal to address IUU fishing, human rights violations in South Pacific

Fishers in the Philippines.

More than 30 major seafood companies, industry associations, and pre-competitive collaborations have signed onto a letter to the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organization calling for action on illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and human rights during its ongoing annual meeting.

The SPRFMO is hosting its 12th annual meeting from 29 January to 2 February in Manta, Ecuador.

Signatories including seafood companies throughout the supply-chain – including Seattle Fish Co., Sea Farms, Costco Wholesale, Highliner, and Aldi – as well as industry collaborations Sea Pact and the Seafood Ethics Action Alliance. They called on the SPRFMO to accelerate the fight against IUU fishing by implementing measures to identify and address violations by vessels on the high seas. The South Pacific jumbo flying squid fishery, managed by the RFMO and important to international seafood supply chains, has been threatened by pressure from overfishing due to IUU.

“The current conservation management measures (CMMs) in place are not strong enough to monitor fishing activity and prevent illegal activities by fishing fleets,” they wrote. “We note that, to date, the SPRFMO has not included any fishing vessels on the IUU list. More transparent information must be made available to ensure full traceability of the products sold in final markets. After more than a decade of regulation, the jumbo flying squid fishery – the largest fishery by volume managed by the SPRFMO – still needs appropriate monitoring of transshipments, observer coverage, and ratification by member states and cooperating non-contracting parties of Port State Measures Agreement.”

The letter lists three specific actions the RFMO and its members need to take to improve transparency and address concerns over IUU fishing and human rights violations:

  • Support the introduction of labor issues to the SPRFMO agenda, including the creation of a specialized working group and the establishment of the first conservation and management measure on guidelines for crew members' safety and equitable treatment, as proposed by the U.S., Ecuador, Australia, and New Zealand.
  • Amend the jumbo flying squid CMM to progressively increase onboard observer coverage to 20 percent, as proposed by Australia and New Zealand.
  • Fully discuss and consider the five proposals on increasing monitoring, control, and surveillance to combat IUU fishing in the jumbo flying squid fishery.

There are 17 state members of the SPRFMO Commission, including the U.S., China, and the European Union, that will decide on stricter conservation measures. The signatories said they recognize the role they play in improving responsible management of fisheries, but said they are challenged to fulfill that role without appropriate RFMO oversight and management.

“Seafood companies share responsibility for ensuring that human rights are respected in the value chains they participate in, as declared by the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and in new human rights due diligence regulations proposed by various countries,” the letter said. “Therefore, we consider it fundamental to include a solid program in the SPRFMO agenda to address labor issues and guarantee decent conditions for fishers and workers in squid fleets.” 

Photo courtesy of Tony Magdaraog/Shutterstock


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