Leveraging Data to Detect Potential Human Rights Risks In Seafood Supply Chains

Originally published to Medium.com


As a member of the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation (PJMF)’s 2023 Data to Safeguard Human Rights Accelerator program, FishWise and PJMF’s Data Practice team have partnered to create an efficient means of detecting potential human and labor rights risks in seafood supply chains.

bAdzan AdlanNahla AchiDanielle Williams, and Alyssa Withrow

Human and labor rights have become a focal point in responsible seafood supply conversations worldwide. Instances of human rights abuses and labor violations, like human trafficking and forced labor, are well documented in supply chains of seafood products sold by U.S. and European retailers. Understanding indicators of human and labor rights risks within seafood supply chains is essential to moving the industry toward upholding decent work for all fishers. Operations in distant water fishing vessels, in particular, can have elevated risks of illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and forced labor due to the lack of monitoring and oversight. Workers on distant water vessels face prolonged periods of isolation, are sometimes forced to stay at sea for multiple years, and have little or no connectivity, resulting in an inability to contact family and friends or to report grievances. Research also suggests that vessels engaged in IUU fishing are at higher risk of exploiting or abusing workers. By examining sourcing and vessel-level data, end-buyers can identify higher-risk products, understand why they might be higher-risk, and define necessary steps to prioritize and mitigate risk.

As a first step in social responsibility and traceability, FishWise helps companies understand the current practices and associated risks that exist within their supply chains through expert services:

  • Product Risk Assessment: Cross-reference sourcing data with publicly available data on human and labor rights, counter-IUU fishing, and traceability best practices to identify the higher-risk supply chains
  • Supplier Questionnaire: Review suppliers’ social responsibility, compliance, and due diligence practices. Develop, implement, and analyze questionnaires to assess the social responsibility, traceability, and counter-IUU fishing practices of first-tier or second-tier suppliers
  • Supplier Policies and Practices Deep Dive: Conduct in-depth review and verification of social responsibility and traceability practices of one first-tier or second-tier supplier
  • Protocol Review or Traceback: Conduct in-depth review and verification of social responsibility and traceability practices of suppliers, focusing on specific areas of a supply chain (e.g., at-sea transshipment or a fishery improvement project)
  • Direct Supplier Engagement: Initiate one-on-one conversations with suppliers to verify policies and build capacity

Out of all these activities performed by FishWise, protocol reviews are one of the most crucial and at the heart of our partnership with PJMF. This service aims to provide our retail partners and their suppliers with guidance on social responsibility and traceability best practices that go beyond what is possible from traditional tracebacks or desktop audits.

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