Ending slavery in the seafood industry

Thai fishing boat with peopleSlavery has been a well-documented human rights disaster in several world fishing regions for years. We wrote about this problem a few years back when reports began to surface in 2014 that seafood harvested or processed by forced labor was making it into the supply chains of major U.S. retailers like Walmart, Kroger, Safeway and restaurants like Red Lobster. For U.S. retailers and seafood importers, avoiding slavery in the fish supply chain has proved exceedingly difficult. Fishing occurs far from shore, often out of sight, while exploitation and abuse on vessels stem from very complex social and economic situations.

To help combat this problem, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program has recently unveiled a new Seafood Slavery Risk Tool. It’s a database designed to help corporate seafood buyers assess the risk of slavery, human trafficking and hazardous child labor in the seafood they purchase, and therefore put pressure on fisheries to reduce these practices.

Don’t count on it! There are still plenty of ways for fisheries to avoid being identified as at risk of slavery. The only sure way to end slavery in fishing is to end fishing. Ending fishing would have the added advantage of saving the world’s fisheries, which are predicted to collapse in thirty years if fishing isn’t stopped.

The best way to end fishing is for everyone to stop eating fish.  This would have another little recognized advantage – people would be healthier! Despite all the hype about the benefits of fish oil, it turns out that this was wishful thinking. Fish comes loaded with cholesterol and some saturated fat, plus unfortunately a lot of toxic pollutants, so it really isn’t as good for our health as we’ve all been led to believe. It’s time to give up eating fish!