UK grocery chains join anti-slavery initiative

Published on
April 11, 2019

Three major grocery chains in the United Kingdom are doing their part to help end illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing as well as slavery and human rights abuses.

Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and Co-op are the first to sign the Environmental Justice Foundation’s Charter for Transparency, which was designed to help supermarkets ensure their seafood supply chains are free from illegal fishing and human rights abuses. The three chains account for more than half of all grocery sales in the U.K., EJF said in a press release.

One-third of fish stocks are being exploited at unsustainable levels, with a further 60 percent fished at maximally sustainable levels, EJF said in a new report. Human rights abuses and illegal practices that destroy ocean ecosystems “have plagued parts of the global seafood industry,” EJF said in its release. 

“Out at sea and far from law enforcement, crew are vulnerable, and unscrupulous owners can act with impunity,” the organization said.

“Transparency in all aspects of fisheries is crucial to ensuring that the seafood we eat was caught legally, ethically and sustainably. Supermarkets are a vital link in the chain and can do much to demand change,” EJF said.

“Supermarkets have real power to help end illegal fishing and human rights abuse at sea,” EJF Executive Director Steve Trent. “They can do this by putting in place effective risk mitigation policies and processes across their entire supply chains, backed by independent verification.”

By adopting EJF’s Charter for Transparency, grocers can also actively “encourage governments across the world to implement the basic measures that are vital to eradicating illegal fishing and human rights abuses in the seafood sector,” Trent added.

The charter includes detailed recommendations retailers can use with suppliers to make sure no boat associated with illegal or unethical practices taints their supply chain.

Retailers agree to implement traceability systems that allow fish to be tracked from net to plate, accompanied by necessary evidence showing it was caught legally and ethically, according to EJF.

“These should be backed up by third-party audits, focused on those areas of the supply chain with the highest risks,” the NGO said.

EJF is in discussions with several other supermarkets regarding the charter and expects to announce further commitments soon. 

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