Taiwanese tuna industry rep criticizes labor lawsuit filed against Bumble Bee Seafood

The representative body for the Taiwanese tuna industry has criticized the decision by an American NGO to sue Bumble Bee Seafood over labor-rights violations.

The representative body for the Taiwanese tuna industry has criticized the decision by an American NGO to take a case against a Taiwan-based tuna processor instead of collaborating with government and industry on solutions.

Global Labor Justice – International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF) filed suit against San Diego, California, U.S.A.-based Bumble Bee Seafood – a major tuna brand and subsidiary of Fong Chun Formosa Fishery Company (FCF), a Taiwan-based seafood trader and fishing company – over what GLJ ILRF said were its “false and deceptive” marketing claims made by Bumble bee that it sources its tuna through a “fair and safe supply chain.”

“It is a pity that those NGOs have been advocating human rights without tabling a feasible measure or complete policy, while taking measures to discourage the efforts, which worries me and the Taiwan fishing industry,” Tony Lin, a spokesperson for the Taiwan Tuna Association, told SeafoodSource.

Lin said he believes better collaboration and communication is essential to improve working conditions in the Taiwanese tuna fleet, which has been criticized by the U.S. government for its labor practices.

“Many cases are found to be caused by misunderstandings [rather] than infringements, and good communication may help to further clarify,” Lin said. “In my personal experience, communicating with NGOs is helpful to avoid misunderstandings between the fishing industry and NGOs … So-called fisheries and human rights should be understood and cooperated with each other in order to find a model suitable [to create change]. This cannot be achieved without the efforts of both the Taiwan Fisheries Agency and the fishing industry.”

GLJ-ILRF’s lawsuit alleges Bumble Bee’s supply chain is rife with forced labor and worker safety violations and demands Bumble Bee show that “advertising is backed up by meaningful practices to protect workers, or otherwise cease making the deceptive marketing claims.”

“Bumble Bee’s false and misleading advertising is bad for workers and bad for consumers who want to buy ethically sourced products,” GLJ-ILRF Executive Director Jennifer Rosenbaum said. “There is a growing concern by consumers and the public about conditions faced by workers who produce global food supply chains. These workers should be able to work in decent conditions and provide a stable life for their families. At GLJ-ILRF, we will continue to expose false claims and demand meaningful action.”

Bumble Bee “adamantly disagrees with the allegations made in the lawsuit” and will defend itself in court, it said in a statement.

“We continue to work within our supply chain, with others in the tuna industry and through the Seafood Task Force to make the responsible recruitment and treatment of all workers an ongoing top priority,” it said.

According to Lin, Taiwan is “in the process of reforming its policy on fisheries and human rights, and the fishing industry will also continue its work with the government and other like-minded stakeholders to make improvements and to progress standards in line with the revised human rights policy.”

“The Taiwan Fisheries Agency and the fishing industry including Taiwan Tuna Association, FCF and other relevant stakeholders have been working hard to actively move toward better human rights,” Lin said. “A number of meetings have been organized to promote awareness and policy change. In addition to the Taiwan Fisheries Agency, local NGOs and international NGOs in Taiwan are also involved in those meetings, including three conferences on fisheries and human rights held by the American Institute in Taiwan.”

Photo courtesy of Tony Lin/LinkedIn


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