The Risk Tool was developed to help businesses identify where there is a heightened risk of forced labor, human trafficking and hazardous child labor occurring in their seafood supply chain. Currently, the tool covers the at-sea portion of wild-capture fisheries.
Since the launch of the Risk Tool in February 2018, 11 fishery assessments have been published covering more than two dozen species that are caught by and/or landed in 24 countries, with fisheries ranging in their final assessment from Low Risk to Critical Risk.
Undertaking analysis for the Risk Tool’s assessment process has revealed a general lack of publicly available information about labor conditions in specific fisheries. Our experience is reflected in scientific analyses.1
While Critical Risk fisheries in Thailand2 have drawn significant attention from industry and prompted a plethora of reporting in recent years, information on labor conditions in other fisheries and countries around the world remains limited. Where there is evidence of modern slavery, it is often from media sources and reported at a country- or community-wide level. In addition, much of the evidence lacks specific details on the nature of the fishing activity involved3, and information to pinpoint cases of modern slavery to specific fisheries is infrequently made available.
As a result, the Risk Tool fishery assessment outcomes frequently depend on if there is evidence of modern slavery within the wider fishing industry of a country and whether the country fulfills the Risk Tool’s country criteria. Hence, High Risk and Low Risk have been the most likely outcomes to date. Responses to the Risk Tool have been broadly positive, but feedback on individual fishery assessments has sometimes been less so. Although the intention of the Risk Tool’s fishery assessments is to encourage buyers to engage proactively with fisheries assessed as higher risk, rather than disengage, High Risk assessments have proven to be disagreeable to fishing industry members and representatives. The main industry claim has been that the extent of abuse is not as grave as the risk assessment may suggest. However, there is typically a lack of information from the fishing industry to prove otherwise, and where information is available it is not always public. Indeed, in one instance, an industry-affiliated organization could not share a report that may change a High Risk rating to Low Risk.
The fishing industry can help address the issues described above by working towards better documentation of labor conditions in fisheries. Environmental management of fisheries is already supported by relatively robust data collection and analysis and this approach should be extended to the social realm.
Documenting both good and bad practices, including cases of human rights violations, improvement efforts and lessons learned, will help buyers to implement appropriate measures to respond to labor risks, including modern slavery. There are many organizations and resources available for assessing, preventing, or correcting human and labor rights abuse, some of which are listed on the Risk Tool website for informational purposes.
We believe that a broader industry push for more systematic data collection and reporting on labor conditions in fishing is needed to bring greater transparency to the seafood industry. Examples of initiatives in development that are working to meet this need include the Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceability4 and the Seafood Alliance for Legality and Traceability (SALT)5. These initiatives focus on improvements to seafood supply chains through improved seafood traceability and information sharing among stakeholders. The Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceability is a pre-competitive platform through which businesses can collaborate to drive improvements in fishery information by supporting the development of an internationally agreed set of data elements, including social metrics, that can be captured and shared within seafood supply chains. Similarly, SALT provides a space for the seafood industry, government and non-governmental organizations to collaboratively tackle issues related to traceability and promote legal and sustainable fisheries through improved transparency using knowledge exchange and action.
Building on the above lessons and other valuable feedback we have received from external experts and industry representatives, the Risk Tool partnership, comprising of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program, Liberty Global | Liberty Asia, and the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, will undertake a review of the Risk Tool in September 2018.
In exploring how to improve upon the current version of the Risk Tool methodology, including how to further strengthen the country criteria, the partnership is considering incorporating additional indicators to assess forced labor, human trafficking and hazardous child labor risks. Examples of possible indicators include corruption; illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing; and trans-shipment at-sea.
We invite constructive feedback from interested stakeholders on the Risk Tool’s methodology. We would very much appreciate your thoughts and suggestions for improvements, including proposals for indicators of modern slavery and alternative sources of evidence for use in our assessments. In addition, the partnership would like to identify how it might support industry more through the provision of information on the Risk Tool website; for instance, through links to guidance on how to document labor practices.
And lastly, we are interested to hear if you have been using the Risk Tool and invite suggestions for fisheries that you would like to see assessed.
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2. I.e. those where there is direct evidence of modern slavery.↩