Ocean conservationists like Oceania and Greenpeace point out the obligation of companies of seafood to stop illegal fishing, especially as the seas are running out of fish with more than a third of stocks overexploited, a number that has tripled since 1974, according to the agency. UN who supervises this sector.
There are a variety of laws applicable to supply chains to prevent countries like USA import prohibited goods. In addition to sanctions on states such as North Korea, Iran, Venezuela and Russiathere are also laws for block products associated with forced prison laborin North Korea, forced labor performed by Uyghurs or forced child labor. However, these laws are especially ineffective with seafood because there is limited information about what happens on fishing vessels.
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Kenneth Kennedy, a former program manager forced labor included in the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcementsaid U.S. lawmakers and federal agencies often lack the political will to enforce most anti-terrorism laws. slavery or other product tracking laws because such investigations move very slowly and complicate international trade agreements.
Read the first part of this investigation: The importance of tracing the origin of seafood to prevent abuse
Federal efforts to monitor shellfish have generally ignored the chinese fleet, even though these boats They have great links with labor and environmental crimes. More than 17 percent of seafood imports from China were captured illegally, according to commercial data from USA.
According to a study carried out in 2021 by the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime, a nonprofit organization that studies the impacts of organized crime; of the 152 nations involved in illegal fishing activities, China is in first place and Russia is second. In 2020, the US Department of Labor said that the chinese squid They lend themselves especially to the use of migrant and captive labor.
In 2016, the government of USA created the Seafood Import Monitoring Program, which requires importers to keep detailed records of their catch from the point of harvest to entry into the United States. However, squid were not included among the 13 shellfish species monitored.
These species were chosen primarily due to concerns about illegal fishing and fraudulent labeling, not human rights and labor abuses. In 2021, the NOAAthe agency that oversees the monitoring program, announced plans to expand the number of species included based on new criteria, including whether the fleet was associated with human trafficking.
Today, U.S. customs officials track only two or three types of squid, according to David Pearlspecialist in foreign affairs of the NOAA. This is a problem, since there are actually between 30 and 40 commercial species. Even when import records are maintained, companies can hide their import and export data from the public simply by asking federal regulators for a waiver, which many companies achieve.
In press releases, on their websites, and in Security and Exchange Commission filings, some seafood sellers claim to enforce rules that ensure their supply chains are free of any links to illegal activity or abuse.
But John HocevarOceans Campaigns Manager at Greenpeace EE. U.S.., said so-called corporate responsibility programs tend to be ineffective, because they are largely self-implemented, lack third-party oversight or verification, focus on environmental concerns rather than human rights, and typically reach only as far as manufacturing plants. prosecution, not to the ships where crimes are most likely to occur.
According to Yozellof the Stimson CenterEven knowing which country caught the fish is difficult. US federal law requires retailers to tell customers about the origin of most types of food, but exempts seafood that is processed in another country and then re-exported. If the fish is caught on Russian vessels, but processed in Chinais labeled as a product of China.
Even companies that demand environmental and labor monitoring have been linked to Chinese ships with crime and risk indicators. Ruggiero Seafoodwhich says on its website not to sell seafood captured illegallyhas been linked to a squid who was found violating the sanctions of the UN when fishing in North Korean waters in 2019. Krogerone of the largest supermarket chains in USAwhich says on its website that it “never knowingly” purchases illegally caught seafood, has been linked to a Chinese vessel that fished illegally in Indonesia in 2020.
Lidl, Europe’s largest supermarket, cites its commitment to responsible sourcing under the motto “A Better Tomorrow.” But Eridanousthe own brand of Lidl squidis processed in a plant linked to at least three fishing companieswhose vessels have a history of fishing crimes, including long transmission blackouts in major squid fisheries in the North and South Pacific, illegal fishing in Peru’s exclusive zone and extraction of shark fins.
Ruggiero and Kroger They did not respond to requests for comment. Lidl said it opposes illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and that it raised the findings of this investigation with its supplier, Zhoushan Xifeng, who provided a statement saying that she is not involved in crimes of fishing.
Many of the largest companies seafood have joined an industry program called Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) that offers a guarantee of traceability and sustainability. Jackie Marksan MSC spokesperson, said the program is primarily to prevent environmental crimes and track where fish come from, not to address labor concerns that might exist about the vessels.
The program does not evaluate working conditions or conduct inspections on fishing vessels for crimes such as rwage theft, beatings, debt bondage or human trafficking. Instead, the MSC It primarily focuses on determining whether processing plants are hygienic, whether labeling is accurate, and whether all vessels and plants in supply chains are identifiable.
To be certified under MSCthe fishing companies and of seafood They have to present documents indicating that they have not been processed through activities linked to the forced labor or related crimes in the last two years, and fishing companies must report what measures they take to prevent such crimes.
The government of USA has taken measures in isolated cases. In December 2022, for example, the United States Department of the Treasury issued sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Law against the directors of two large fishing companies chinese, Dalian Ocean Fishing and Pingtan Marine Enterprisebased on accusations of forced labor and illegal fishing by some of its more than 150 boats.
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The agency of Customs and Protection United States border has the duty to stop imports linked to the forced labor entering the country, and in the last five years, the agency has redoubled its efforts. The agency has issued such orders against tuna longline vessels flying the flag of Taiwanbut has never taken action against the calamarieros chinesedespite evidence that includes them among the worst actors.
*This report was produced by The Outlaw Ocean Project, a nonprofit journalism organization based in Washington, DC. Research and writing was carried out by Ian Urbina, Joe Galvin, Maya Martin, Susan Ryan, Daniel Murphy and Austin Brush. This reporting was supported by the Pulitzer Center.