Center for American Progress

RELEASE: The Government and Private Sector Should Partner to Combat Seafood Slavery
Press Release

RELEASE: The Government and Private Sector Should Partner to Combat Seafood Slavery

Washington, D.C. — Recent in-depth investigations have exposed horrific and widespread human rights abuses in the global fishing industry. According to reporting by the Associated Press, The New York Times, and other major news outlets, much of the fish that winds up on U.S. tables is caught and transported using child labor, slave labor, and other forms of human trafficking. Although the United States and other major seafood importing countries have strict environmental and labor laws for their own domestic fisheries, they continue to import large quantities of seafood from jurisdictions plagued by poor environmental and labor practices.

Now that the scope of the problem has been uncovered, the Center for American Progress has released a major report looking at how the U.S. government and private sector should respond to curtail these abuses.

“Growing outrage at the prevalence of human trafficking in international seafood supply chains has prompted both U.S. policymakers and the private sector to seek out ways to combat these abuses,” said Trevor Sutton, CAP Senior Fellow and co-author of the report. “Yet limited resources and poor coordination across federal agencies has prevented an effective response to the scourge of seafood slavery. Many of the technologies and regulatory frameworks that are currently being developed to address illegal fishing practices could also be powerful tools in the fight against seafood slavery, but, so far, there has been little effort to link environmental challenges with human rights.”

“Most people are appalled to find their seafood dinner or pet food was produced in part by slaves,” said Avery Siciliano, CAP Research Associate and co-author of the report. “It is important to understand that while human trafficking is a distinct challenge from illegal fishing, the two share many of the same drivers, including weak rule of law and limited data. Tackling human rights abuses in the seafood supply chain with a fisheries management lens is important moving forward.”

The report finds that key laws designed to fight human trafficking and unlawful fishing are enforced too narrowly and in a compartmentalized way that is completely unnecessary given statutory authorities. It also finds that cooperation across agencies—particularly between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, and law enforcement and customs authorities—must be increased.

Click here to read the report.

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, contact Tom Caiazza at [email protected] or 202.481.7141.