Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions releases guidance to help seafood companies address environmental, social challenges

The 2023 Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions annual conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico
The 2023 Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions annual conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico | Photo courtesy of Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions/LinkedIn
4 Min

Global seafood trade involves complex supply chains, with products often passing through multiple intermediaries and countries before reaching consumers. 

This, according to the Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions, a U.S.-based NGO aiming to increase the amount of responsibly produced and sourced seafood on the global market, creates outsized risk of environmental and social issues across the global seafood supply chain.

To combat these issues, the nonprofit has introduced a new set of guidelines, measures, and resources aimed at supporting company efforts to address social and environmental challenges in seafood production.

“This new edition is the culmination of work on the original document, published in 2008. We’ve slowly revised it to address human rights and labor issues,” Ryan Bigelow, a project director with the Conservation Alliance, told SeafoodSource. “This is the first time we’ve incorporated social responsibility at such a fundamental level. We believe it will help companies achieve their goals of delivering a socially and environmentally responsible product to market.”

Releasing this guidance on the heels of recent investigations into alleged forced labor in the seafood supply chains of India, China, and North Korea and ahead of the 2024 Seafood Expo Global, which will take place 23 to 25 April in Barcelona, Spain, the alliance has provided resources that help ensure companies prioritize the human side of the seafood sector, such as providing fair wages, safe and humane working conditions, and equitable opportunities for workers, with the ultimate hope that companies prioritize these efforts as much as environmental concerns.

To assist companies in turning ideas into action, the guidance provides businesses with a toolkit and checklists based on globally accepted frameworks that they can use to identify, assess, and mitigate human rights and environmental risks in their operations and supply chains.

It also outlines examples of programs that businesses of various sizes and supply chains, including retailers, restaurants, and fishery cooperatives, have successfully implemented.

“Companies of all sizes – from mass market retailers to family-owned sushi restaurants – have the power to apply pressure on suppliers, spur reforms, and create new markets, models, and supply chains that safeguard workers and the environment,” Bigelow said.

Bigelow said the guidance aligns with one of the alliance’s most ambitious goals: making sure at least 75 percent of global seafood production is environmentally and socially responsible, or is making verifiable improvements to become so, by 2030. As of 2023, approximately 46 percent of production meets the goal, according to the alliance.

However, forced labor now generates USD 236 billion (EUR 220 billion) in illegal profits annually – a sharp increase from an estimated USD 64 billion (EUR 60 billion) in 2014 – requiring organized action to buck the trend, according to the alliance.

“The latest human and labor rights investigations confirm that the industry is facing a sea change,” Bigelow said. “While progress is being made, it’s clear that it’s time for the industry to meet this issue with the urgency it deserves. Prioritizing human rights alongside conservation is not just the right thing to do, it’s the best thing companies can do to future-proof their businesses from consumer backlash and reputational damage.” 

The updated guidance’s development involved collaboration with a working group comprising leading industry experts, practitioners, and academics from organizations such as Fishwise, Seafood Watch, and New England Seafoods.

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