Thai seafood gi­ant com­mits to ma­jor fish­ing re­forms

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

Thai Union, one of the world’s largest seafood con­glom­er­ates, said yes­ter­day it will over­haul its fish­ing prac­tices to pro­tect against la­bor abuses and un­sus­tain­able trawl­ing, a move hailed by Green­peace as “huge progress”. The Thai food gi­ant-which owns ma­jor global brands such as Chicken of the Sea, John West and Pe­tit Navire-has long been a bete noire to those campaigning against over­fish­ing and abu­sive work­ing con­di­tions on boats. But yes­ter­day it re­leased a joint state­ment with Green­peace an­nounc­ing a se­ries of re­forms that both said should en­cour­age other seafood be­he­moths to fol­low suit.

“This marks huge progress for our oceans and ma­rine life and for the rights of peo­ple work­ing in the seafood in­dus­try,” Green­peace In­ter­na­tional Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Bunny McDiarmid said in the state­ment. “Now is the time for other com­pa­nies to step up, and show sim­i­lar lead­er­ship.” Among the com­mit­ments Thai Union has made is to cut the num­ber of fish ag­gre­gat­ing de­vices (FADs) it uses by 50 per­cent by 2020 and re­duce long­line fish­ing.

FADs, which float on the sur­face to at­tract fish, and long­lines are ef­fec­tive ways of catch­ing large hauls of lu­cra­tive fish like tuna. But they of­ten re­sult in reams of other an­i­mals be­ing caught, in­clud­ing en­dan­gered sharks and tur­tles.

The re­forms will also tar­get work­ing con­di­tions on board Thai Union boats and those of its sup­pli­ers in­clud­ing an ex­tended mora­to­rium on “trans­ship­ping”. Trans­ship­ping is a method many fish­ing gi­ants use to keep trawlers at sea as long as pos­si­ble, of­ten for years at a time.

Catches are trans­ferred to re­frig­er­ated trans­port ves­sels at sea, sav­ing the time and fuel costs of re­turn­ing to port. While eco­nom­i­cally ef­fi­cient, en­vi­ron­men­tal groups have long warned that trans­ship­ping al­lows trawlers to hide il­le­gal catches and of­ten leads to slav­ery-like con­di­tions for many of the low-paid fish­er­men who spend years on­board their boats.

Thai Union have also agreed to al­low in­de­pen­dent ob­servers or dig­i­tal track­ing de­vices onto all their long­line boats and will meet with Green­peace ev­ery six months to as­sess im­ple­men­ta­tion.

In the joint state­ment, CEO Thi­raphong Chan­siri said his com­pany “has fully em­braced its role as a leader for pos­i­tive change as one of the largest seafood com­pa­nies in the world.”

Thai Union posted world­wide sales of $3.8 bil­lion in 2016 and is tar­get­ing $8 bil­lion rev­enue by 2020. Thai­land is the world’s third largest seafood ex­porter but the in­dus­try has been dogged by al­le­ga­tions of rights abuses and cheap la­bor in its fish­ing fleets and many food pro­cess­ing fac­to­ries. The sec­tor is mainly staffed by poor mi­grant work­ers from Myan­mar, Laos and Cam­bo­dia. The Euro­pean Union has threat­ened to ban all its seafood prod­ucts un­less the mil­i­tary govern­ment tack­les ram­pant il­le­gal fish­ing among its fleets. — AFP

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