Human Rights Abuses in the Seafood Industry
The life of a commodity never begins at the cash register. By the time it reaches a store shelf, a product has the potential to have already encountered a series of human rights breaches during the trajectory of its production. Just one glance at the range of industries featured on the Free2Work website indicates that hardly any existing industry—from sports equipment to fruit to electronics—is completely exempt from the labour issues permeating its supply chains.
Recently, unjust labour practices within the supply chains of seafood production were exposed in Bloomberg Businessweek, cited by journalist Ben Skinner. He flags a well-known New Zealand-based seafood company, United Fisheries, which was found to be purchasing and processing fish from vessels that paid crew members an average of one dollar an hour. In some instances, workers were denied payment and were even threatened to pay a fine if they tried to escape the ship.
Fish from these vessels were then sold to major U.S. companies, including Costco Wholesale Corp., America’s largest wholesaler and the world’s seventh-largest retailer. This fish was also distributed to P.F.Chang’s China Bistro, Sam’s Club, and P&E Foods.
Shockingly enough, it is not uncommon for workers in the fishing industry to be held in debt bondage, threatened with violence, or become otherwise exploited. Before reaching its final destination, the seafood extracted from fishing boats is passed through many hands as it travels as raw material to the processor, distributor, and eventually to the consumer. Free2Work underscores this connection between exploited workers in the fishing industry and the tainted $14.7 billion worth of seafood that the U.S. imports annually, most of which ends up on consumers’ plates.
While it is challenging to track these abuses since supply chains often remain opaque, there are existing avenues for action. In response to the need for greater corporate transparency and monitoring through all levels of a company’s supply chains, Free2Work educates consumers about the true story behind the barcode by providing information about how popular brands relate to human trafficking and other labour abuses.
Recently, Free2Work developed a user-friendly mobile application that informs consumers about their link to the global slave trade while they shop. After scanning a product’s barcode with the app, the consumer receives a Free2Work scorecard for the particular brand, allowing the consumer to make an informed purchasing decision.
To learn more about the abuses occurring within the supply chains of the seafood industry, download the free Free2Work app or visit the brand scorecards on the recently-launched Free2Work website.