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50 Major Companies Band Together to Stomp Out Illegal Tuna, Forced Labor

Image Credit: IQMS

Fifty of the world’s largest businesses, retailers and fishing companies from across the tuna supply chain have banded together to stamp out illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in their industry, protect the health of oceans and eliminate forced labor from fishing vessels.

Launched at the United Nation’s first global Ocean Conference, the Tuna 2020 Traceability Declaration aims to stop illegal tuna from coming to market. It is a non-legally binding declaration that grew out of out of discussions at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos in January 2017 between industry stakeholders, governments, civil society and the President of the United Nations General Assembly. They called for further collaboration between the public and private sectors to accelerate efforts to address the IUU fishing of tuna in line with Sustainable Development Goal 14 on oceans.

The agreement was brokered by the World Economic Forum (WEF) and is supported by policymakers and 18 civil society organizations, including Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), The Nature Conservancy and OceanElders, and the President of the UN General Assembly.

Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing accounts for 26 million metric tons of fish, or $24 billion, in theft each year. Tuna and many other keystone species are included in these numbers. Overfishing of these species can significantly impact ocean health and cause population collapse, as seen already seen with Bluefin tuna, whose populations will take decades to fully recover.

IUU tuna fishing is also a source of forced labor in many countries, violating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Labor Organization’s Conventions and Recommendations.

As part of the Declaration, signatories committed to:

  • Tuna Traceability: Tuna products in supply chains will be fully traceable to the vessel and trip dates and information will be disclosed upon request at Point of Sale either on packaging or via an online system.
  • Socially Responsible Tuna Supply Chain: Signatories will eliminate any form of slavery and ensure suppliers at least meet minimum social standards in management practices as recommended by the UN Declaration of Human Rights and the International Labor Organization’s Conventions and Recommendations.
  • Environmentally Responsible Tuna Sources: Signatories will source from tuna fisheries that have implemented robust science-based management plans and sustainability measures including bycatch mitigation techniques.
  • Government Partnership: Signatories will collaborate with governments to implement harvest strategies for tuna stocks by 2020, establish systems to identify and restrict illegal seafood through traceability and transparency measures and build capacity to establish and manage information systems to account for domestic and international fish fleets, landings, enforcement and trade of seafood products.

“The Tuna 2020 Traceability Declaration is an unprecedented commitment to stop illegal tuna from coming to market. Multi-stakeholder collaboration combined with Fourth Industrial Revolution innovations such as advanced remote sensing, the latest generation of satellites and new computing technologies provide real opportunity to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals to make this happen,” said Dominic Waughray, Head of Public-Private Partnership for WEF.

To help deliver on the outcomes outlined in the declaration, WEF will develop an Ocean Data Alliance, an open-source collaboration between leading tech companies, governments and research institute. Through tools such as blockchain technology and satellite tracking, the platform will bring together the data needed for comprehensive monitoring of ocean resources and allow businesses, policymakers and NGOs to trace fish stocks and eliminate illegal activities.

“Ensuring the long-term sustainability of this valuable source of protein, while preserving our oceans, is a global challenge. Governments, NGOs, industry, brands, retailers and consumers all have a role to play,” said Rupert Howes, Chief Executive at MSC.

“The power of supply chain in driving change on the water should not be underestimated. I encourage these companies to deliver on this commitment by sourcing tuna from fisheries that meet international standards for best practice in sustainable and responsible fishing. In doing so, they are supporting responsible fisheries, securing their supply of tuna for the future and providing their customers with reassurance that their tuna is sourced responsibly.”

“SDG 14 is critical for the health and economies of many nations, particularly coastal countries and small island states. This declaration is a bold step towards ending illegal fishing and empowering countries to make fisheries more sustainable,” said Árni Mathiesen, Assistant Director-General Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.


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