The Pacific is home to the world’s largest tuna fisheries, providing almost 60% of the world’s tuna catch, worth US$22 billion (out of a US$42 billion globally) in 2016, and demand is increasing. Yet reports of severe human rights abuses are rife, including forced labour, slavery, human trafficking and child labour.
Modern slavery is endemic in this industry, where the tuna supply chain is remote, complex and opaque. Few stories leak out about conditions but, when they do, they are often horrendous: with migrant workers bought and sold as unpaid slaves, and tossed overboard if they complain or get injured.In this context of abuse, the buyers – canned tuna companies and supermarkets – have an obligation to ensure their supply chains are not infested with slavery. Increasingly, they also have legal obligations under UK and Australian modern slavery laws
Over two rounds of research we have found that a few committed companies are conducting robust due diligence and introducing innovative measures to address human rights challenges but, in general, companies are failing to support their public policies with practical action. This tracker allows users to explore and compare companies' reported action in key areas, including human rights due diligence, responding to complaints and external engagement, and to find out which companies failed to respond.
In 2018/19, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited 35 companies (including major canned tuna brand-owners and supermarkets) to respond to a survey on human rights in Pacific tuna fishing operations and supply chains. Our findings revealed a pattern of policy over practice – whilst two thirds of surveyed companies had adopted corporate human rights policies, there was little or no evidence of action to implement them.
Since our first report, evidence of modern slavery in Pacific tuna fishing has continued to surface. These concerns are now escalating as the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, particularly on migrant workers, continue to unfold.
In 2020/21, we re-engaged with leading tuna brands to identify advancements and persistent gaps in company practice and performance over the last two years and examine companies’ responses to COVID-19 impacts. Thirty-three of the companies invited to participate in our 2018/19 survey were re-surveyed. Two new companies, Bolton Food and Hagoromo, were added to our target group in 2021 to reflect market changes, whilst Metro AG and Organico Realfoods participated in 2018/19 but were not included in 2021. Of the 35 companies surveyed, 22 responded. Sixteen companies demonstrated continued engagement and participated in both surveys. Four companies who failed to respond to us in 2018/19 (Tesco, Lidl, Carrefour and Wild Planet) engaged this time around.
Consistent with our previous survey, the quality of responses varied dramatically. Overall, more detailed responses correlated with companies having more extensive human rights policies and processes in place.
22 out of 35 companies responded to our 2021 survey
4 in 5
Commit to Respect Rights
The majority of respondents publicly commit to uphold human rights
Fully Map Supply Chains
Supply chains remain opaque, and engagement below Tier 1 is rare
Mitigating COVID Impact
Only a quarter of respondants have taken steps to reduce risks during the pandemic
Briefing: All at Sea
Our 2021 briefing evaluates of company efforts to address modern slavery in Pacific supply chains of canned tuna.
Exploited Indonesian fishers of Chinese-owned vessel He Shun 38 to be repatriated
Following the public allegations of non-payments of wages, both crew are reported as being repatriated to Indonesia with some wages paid, and the Fiji Fishing Industry Association (FFIA) has de-listed the He Shun from MSC-Certification.
US Customs Border Patrol issues new detention order on seafood harvested with forced labour
The Withhold Release Order (WRO) was issued against seafood harvested by the Da Wang, a Vanuatu-flagged, Taiwan-owned distant water fishing vessel, the third such order since February 2019.
Fisheries observer safety, security and well-being reports published by HRAS
Human Rights at Sea (HRAS) issues two new international peer-reviewed reports focusing on Fisheries Observer safety, security and well-being in the Western and Central Pacific region.
~ Bumble Bee Foods and Clover Leaf Seafoods share the same parent company and certain company policies which is reflected in mirrored survey responses. Since our 2018/2019 survey, both have been acquired by FCF Co. Ltd (Taiwan), a company linked to forced labour allegations.
^ Since our 2018/2019 survey, Tri Marine has been acquired by Bolton Group (Italy) and no longer retains the brand “Ocean Naturals”. Both Bolton Food and Tri Marine share the same parent company and they provided a joint response which outlined different policies and processes between the companies.
* Since our 2018/19 survey, Supervalu has merged with UNFI.