Seafood industry ‘needs code on social responsibility’

JOINT investigations, sharing information on audits and a code of conduct on social responsibility are some of the recommendations that have been made to the seafood industry by an ethics consultant.
In a report, published today, Roger Plant looks at 15 regions supplying the UK market and focuses on social issues surrounding human rights and the labour rights of fishermen.
As well as a risk assessment profile for each region, mostly in South East Asia, the report provides an analysis of the risks as well as strategic recommendations on how the seafood industry can help to improve conditions on fishing vessels and along the supply chain.
The report has been published to coincide with a presentation from Plant during the session on seafood ethics at the World Seafood Congress, being held in Grimsby this week.
Speaking at the congress, Plant said: ‘The issue of slavery and labour brokering in the seafood supply chain won’t go away and no country is immune to these activities.
‘The only way to stop what is going on is through collective action by the seafood industry as a whole and across the globe.
‘The supply chain needs to find ways to share information and be proactive in reporting findings during audits, as well as pioneer joint investigations on issues such as slave labour which will provide benefits to everybody involved.
‘However, I believe the biggest change required is a code of conduct on social responsibility, similar to the FAO codes on responsible fisheries which has led to vast improvements in the sustainability of the marine environment.’
During the session on seafood ethics, delegates also heard from Kevin Hyland, the UK’s first independent anti-slavery commissioner, talking about the Modern Slavery Act, and Mariah Boyle from FishWise.
Libby Woodhatch, head of advocacy at Seafish, also presented an overview of the work Seafish is doing with the UK industry on social issues, including an update on the revised Responsible Fishing Scheme (RFS), which now includes crew welfare and health and safety on board fishing vessels as part of its audits.
Woodhatch said: ‘Seafish has been working with the seafood industry, government and NGOs for a while now to address the social challenges in the supply chain and we are making progress in seeing some real changes.
‘This report on the ethical issues within the supply chain is something the industry asked us to do through our Seafood Ethics Common Language Group and we are keen to ensure we can support a socially responsible seafood industry in the UK.’
Seafish plans to carry out risk assessments for more regions in the future and the social issues identified will be added to its Risk Assessment for Sourcing Seafood (RASS) tool, which currently provides risk scores on the environmental impact of fisheries.
This will give seafood buyers a fuller picture of the environmental and social risks linked to the seafood they buy.