A new paper authored by a team from Conservation International of the University of Washington (UW) and other organizations seeks to look into the human rights abuses and violations in the seafood industry.
This is in response to investigative reports published by the New York Times, the Associated Press, the Guardian, and other media outlets that discovered human rights violations on fishing vessels such as spending at least 22-hours on the vessel with abuse and often without pay.
The abuses extend beyond Southeast Asia and other countries, and that the paper calls on governments and businesses to take measures in ensuring that the seafood industry is without harm – including its people.
“The scientific community has not kept with concerns for social issues in the seafood sector,” said Jack Kittinger, Conservation International’s senior director for global fisheries and aquaculture. “The purpose of this initiative is to ensure that governments, businesses, and nonprofits are working together to improve human rights, equality and food and livelihood security. This is a holistic and comprehensive approach that establishes a global standard to address these social challenges.”
The paper focuses on three main approaches that give the standard for social responsibility in the seafood industry: guaranteeing equitable and equality opportunities to benefit; protecting human rights, dignity and respecting access to resources; and enhancing food and livelihood security.
“This paper stresses that if we are serious about social responsibility in our food systems, we need to go beyond dealing with the ‘worst-case’ headlines of ‘slavery at sea,'” said co-author Edward Allison, a UW professor in the School of Marine and Environmental Affairs.
“We argue that committing to sustainable seafood sourcing and supply is also about ensuring people who work in the food business whether as harvesters or processors and packers have decent work. It is also about ensuring communities who rely on the sea economically and culturally, particularly coastal indigenous communities don’t have their harvest rights appropriated by powerful outside interests,” said Allison.
Allison added that most of the workers in the seafood industry are female and that there are still gender disparities among the troops.
Seafood is the earth’s most globally traded food.
It is believed that by 2030, more people will be supplying this to many industries worldwide.
“In some places, commercial fishing boats from other parts of the world are virtually robbing local small-scale fishers of the fish that they rely on to make a living and survive. Fisheries are not truly sustainable unless local people are able to benefit from the harvesting of resources,” said co-author Nathan Bennett, a postdoctoral researcher at the UW.
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