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Major Retailers Sign EJF Charter for Fishing Transparency

Improving Transparency in Global Fisheries from Environmental Justice Foundation on Vimeo.

By The Maritime Executive 05-19-2019 04:40:39

Marks & Spencer and Waitrose & Partners have become the latest major retailers to sign the Environmental Justice Foundation’s (EJF) Charter for Transparency. They join the Co-op, Sainsbury’s and Tesco in making a commitment to ensure their seafood supply chains are free from illegal fishing and human rights abuse. 

This is a significant and unifying step forward, says EJF: together these five companies represent the vast majority of grocery sales in the U.K.

The lack of transparency in the global seafood industry means that illegal fishing is rife, costing the global economy an estimated $10 - 23.5 billion every year.

As fish stocks fall, so does income from the vessels. To scrape a profit, some companies exploit workers, engaging in violent human rights abuses and employing forced, bonded and slave labor. EJF has documented abuse aboard fishing vessels across the world – from slavery to murder – all facilitated by a lack of transparency.

Supermarkets are a vital part of ensuring that seafood sold was caught legally, ethically and sustainably, says EJF.

The charter includes detailed recommendations retailers can use with suppliers to make sure no boat associated with illegal or unethical practices is in their supply chain. Central to this is the use of traceability systems that allow fish to be tracked from net to plate, accompanied by necessary evidence showing it was caught legally and ethically. These should be backed up by third party audits, focused on those areas of the supply chain with the highest risks.

In addition, supermarkets have a powerful voice that they can use to call on governments to make critical reforms. The charter calls on them to support the adoption of EJF’s 10 principles for global transparency in the fishing industry. These simple, low-cost measures – which include publishing license lists and giving vessels unique numbers – are well within the reach of any country, says EJF.

Waitrose & Partners’ Ethical Trade Manager Sam Ludlow Taylor said: “We have been working on responsible seafood sourcing for over 20 years, only sourcing fish from fisheries and farmed aquaculture operations that are responsibly managed and fully traceable. Our leading approach to responsible fishing extends to the welfare conditions of all workers in our supply chain as their well-being is equally important to us. By signing this charter, further safeguarding measures will be implemented to ensure all workers are operating within a safe and ethical environment, as well as practicing the high standards both we and our customers expect.”   

Mike Mitchell, Fisheries Specialist at M&S, said: “At M&S, we’re committed to sourcing all our fish responsibly, and we’re proud to lead the sector on transparency with our interactive supplier map, which shows where every type of fish or seafood we sell is caught or farmed. We believe collaborating with EJF and the wider industry to prevent illegal fishing will enable us to create meaningful and lasting change in seafood.”