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Global Fisheries and Human Rights: An Opportunity for Collective Action

Global Fisheries and Human Rights: An Opportunity for Collective Action

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During the past several months the United States has enacted a string of new laws and regulations that aim to clamp down on illegal labor practices in the global fishing industry.

Fishermen drag a net to the shore. New United States laws aim to address the issue of human rights abuses in the global fishing industry, but it’s not easy to trace the industry’s complex supply chains in order to enforce them. (Photo by: Henric Silversnö / CC BY)

Fishermen drag a net to the shore. New United States laws aim to address the issue of human rights abuses in the global fishing industry, but it’s not easy to trace the industry’s complex supply chains in order to enforce them. (Photo by: Henric Silversnö / CC BY)

Together they support an already strong global push for transparency into one of the world’s foremost, but notoriously opaque, industries. Yet the consensus among labor rights advocates is that companies still need to take bolder and more collective actions in order to create greater change in the labor practices of their supply chains.

Efforts to address forced labor issues — just one of many challenges that shape the issue of “sustainable fisheries” — have largely coalesced around government regulations and independent supply chain evaluations by business and industry groups. But a third component — trusted and verifiable supply chain traceability systems at a global level — that can better bridge the two is still missing.

Dangerous waters

The global fishing industry has come under frequent scrutiny for its labor practices. The International Labor Organization identifies fishing as a “highly hazardous sector” because work crews are often subject to harsh physical conditions and deceptive recruitment practices.

“There is no reason why companies should not know [of those conditions],” said Dan Viederman, chief executive of Verite, a global NGO that focuses on fair labor practices. “There is enough information out there about the risks and types of problems that are likely present in an extended supply chain.”

On Feb. 24 President Barack Obama signed into law a measure that bans the import of goods that are suspected of being made with forced or slave labor. In doing so, he closed a long-standing loophole in U.S. trade policy that previously allowed import of those products if demand for them could not be met by domestic production. Earlier in the month Obama also signed an international accord that allows U.S. port officials to deny access to foreign vessels that are under suspicion of illegal fishing.

(Read the full report on Devex.com.)

Avatar of Coral Triangle Written by Coral Triangle

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