News Sustainable Fish

Modern slavery 'endemic' in tuna industry

The tuna industry is worth $22 billion and growing but behind it are human rights abuses including labour exploitation, slavery and trafficking. Sustain members are working to strengthen the Modern Slavery Act so people do not have to live in these atrocious conditions.

Tuna fish. Photo credit: Pixabay

Tuna fish. Photo credit: Pixabay

The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) has found that 80% of the world's biggest canned tuna brands do not know who caught their fish, putting workers in the industry at risk of exploitation and slavery.

Amy Sinclair, the report's author and Pacific Researcher at BHRRC, said: 

“Modern slavery is endemic in the fishing industry, where the tuna supply chain is remote, complex and opaque. Yet despite years of shocking abuses being exposed, tuna companies are taking little action to protect workers. 

“This report finds that most tuna companies need to significantly step up their efforts to identify, address and prevent modern slavery in their supply networks and provide redress for workers in order to stamp out this abuse.”

Key findings:

Tuna companies are failing to support their policies with practical action on modern slavery.

  • Two thirds (24 companies) have a public human rights policy.
  • Half (18/35) report having a human rights due diligence process.
  • But only one company (Thai Union) could outline its due diligence procedure in detail.
  • Only 4/35 companies – Thai Union, Kraft Heinz Australia, Target and REWE Group –
  • Reported having due diligence policies and procedures that specifically address the risk of modern slavery in supply chains.

A few committed tuna companies (Thai Union, Bumble Bee Foods and Clover Leaf Seafoods) are working consistently to improve their approach to human rights, with innovative measures to address modern slavery, such as digital traceability of fish, and measures designed specifically to protect migrant fishers from abuse.

Modern Slavery Act

This exposé on continued abuse of workers in tuna fisheries shows the need for strong and enforced rules on supply chains. It comes at the same time as a call by many Sustain member organisations - including Traidcraft, Fairtrade Foundation and Unison - to strengthen the scope and enforcement of the Modern Slavery Act.

Published Wednesday 5 June 2019

Sustainable Fish: A campaign to protect precious marine environments and fishing livelihoods, and call for fish to be bought from sustainable sources. We want to show what can be done if people and organisations make a concerted effort to change their buying habits.

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