The recent investigative reporting by the BBC and The Guardian of slavery, indentured servitude and torturous conditions on board Taiwanese and Thai fishing boats confirmed that these issues remain serious problems. Further, chain of custody studies demonstrate that seafood entering US markets and sold at major retail chains is implicated. While the primary focus of this scandal has been on shrimp from Thailand, abuse of workers aboard fishing vessels is a much wider problem, affecting multiple types of seafood from multiple nations.
A recent Coast Guard report identified the US-flagged distant water tuna fleet as among the most dangerous boats for US workers, with among the highest mortality rates in the country. The South Pacific Tuna Corporation, which supplies Bumblebee, was singled out for repeatedly employing foreigners in positions legally required to be filled by US citizens.
Hopefully, this will finally be the wake up call that the seafood industry cannot sleep through. While there has been progress in recent years, most businesses have failed to pay sufficient attention to their supply chain to enable them to be confident that their seafood is legal, never mind sustainable.
Slavery has no place in the 21st century, and the products of slave labor have no place on supermarket shelves or restaurant tables.
If seafood businesses don’t respond to this in a serious way, these scandals are only going to continue. Slavery won’t go away on its own, especially if US businesses are willing to capitalize on it.
From shrimp to tuna, seafood businesses need to step up their game on seafood traceability, and take a good hard look at their supply chains. If that ultra-cheap seafood item seems too good to be true, it probably is. Companies should immediately stop sourcing from CP foods and other known businesses relying on slavery until they can demonstrate unequivocally that slavery is no longer part of their supply chain.