Human Rights at Sea has published a new report called “Does it Do what it Says on the Tin” which asks the questions “How Ethical is the Seafood you Eat?”
The NGO calls the report “A Review of the International Fisheries and Aquaculture Certifications, Standards and Ratings Ecosystem” and was a three-year project” and is an independent review.
The report “Does it Do what it Says on the Tin” is framed as an ‘Ecosystem 1.0 review’, and it seeks to catalyse the public discussion around whether or not the identified entities are integrating human and labour rights protections within their own certification, standard or rating.
The initial findings are based on desk-level investigations of what those entities are currently stating in public from across their platforms, media and social media.
The project is part of wider work the NGO has been undertaking in reviewing the entire maritime supply chain. This report has focused on assessing schemes against 16 subjective key position indicators (KPIs).
HRAS is being supported by the US-based NGO, Freedom United and external consultancy MARFISHECO.
CEO, David Hammond said: “Human rights abuses in seafood supply chains are no longer out of sight, nor out of mind. It is, therefore, time to come together, act as a collective and address the current gaps in fishery and aquaculture certifications, standards and rating programs for the betterment of the millions of workers working in seafood supply chains.”
HRAS has taken the decision to share its findings publicly. For stakeholder access, all baseline data contained within this report will be made available from 1st March 2023 at: www.humanrightsatsea.org/csrreview. HRAS intends to update twice yearly.
A total of 23 active fishery certification, standards and ratings programs were identified.
- Of these 23 fisheries certifications, standards and rating programs 12 (52%) did not satisfy a single HRAS KPI, therefore, scored zero.
- 11 of the 23 (48%) fisheries certification, standards and rating programs did not mention human rights, social wellbeing or welfare at all.
- None of the certifications, standards and rating programs scored the maximum 16 points when benchmarked against the HRAS KPIs. The next highest score compared to the HRAS KPIs was the Sustainable Supply Chain Initiative’s At Sea Operations Scope from the Consumer Goods Forum.
Conclusion of the Report
The Ecosystem 1.0 review shows compelling evidence that, collectively, there is not enough being done to incorporate human rights considerations into certifications, standards and ratings in fishery and aquaculture supply chains.
This is likely driven by five background issues:
- A historic tendency to focus on public reporting of environmental sustainability and impact over the human welfare of people working in fishery and aquaculture supply chains.
- A virtual lack of data related to suspected or identified human rights abuses when compared to the extensive public reporting surrounding environmental sustainability impacts of fishery and aquaculture operations.
- Unwillingness to embrace the additional complexity of incorporating another audit consideration into certifications, standards and rating programs.
- A core concern that exposing abuses within the supply chain will directly affect commercial reputation, market position and, therefore, profit.
- A general apprehensiveness that the empowerment of workers will lead to potential litigation against employers for abusive behaviours, poor working standards, and increased unionisation.
Recommendations of the Report
There are three recommendations.
- All certifications, standards and ratings programs should note the contents of the HRAS review and publicly act upon the issues raised.
- All certifications, standards and ratings must be accountable for their inclusion, reporting, tracking and support to victim remediation for all incidents of worker rights abuse about which they are put on notice; however, that notice is given.
- Bi-annual updates of the ecosystem reviews are required and must be funded for public awareness of individual program improvements.