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NOAA Fisheries Announces New Initiative to End Illegal Labor Practices in the Seafood Industry

July 19, 2022

NOAA Fisheries will pursue public-private partnerships through CALM-CS to accelerate efforts toward ending forced labor and improving working conditions across the seafood sector.

fishermen working on boat Credit: iStock

NOAA Fisheries has announced a new public-private initiative—the Collaborative Accelerator for Lawful Maritime Conditions in Seafood. It will promote legal and safe working conditions, including combating forced labor, in the fishing and seafood industry.

Illegal and inhumane working conditions in the seafood sector, such as forced labor, are devastating for the victims and their families. They also contribute to destabilization of maritime security and supply chains, as well as the degradation of fisheries and broader marine ecosystems. Left unchecked, illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and associated labor abuses undermine U.S. economic competitiveness, national security, fishery sustainability, and the livelihoods and human rights of fishers around the world.

In a recent National Security Memorandum on Combating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing and Associated Labor Abuses, President Biden reinforced the commitment of the U.S. government to fight labor abuses in the seafood sector. He also called for agencies to increase their collaboration with non-governmental partners to develop comprehensive approaches to combat these conditions. This initiative responds to this call.

A Call to Action

As a jumping-off point for this initiative, NOAA recently convened stakeholders at a collaborative summit—A Call to Action: Ending Forced Labor and Promoting Decent Work in the Seafood Sector. Senior officials from the Departments of Commerce, State, Labor, U.S. Coast Guard, and the U.S. Agency for International Development met with representatives of businesses, humanitarian groups, and government agencies. They discussed collaborative approaches to support decent working conditions in the seafood sector.

In reflections on the summit, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said, “By coming together to address illegal labor practices, we can have a positive impact on seafood industry workers and families around the world, and help ensure the stability of the broader seafood supply chain.”

In a statement, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator Dr. Richard Spinrad said “We hope that CALM-CS can leverage the urgency we all feel toward these issues and be just one part of the response to this call for action that is shared around the world."

Collaborative Accelerator for Lawful Maritime Conditions in Seafood

At this key moment, participants from all relevant sectors are invited to join the initiative to collaborate on how we can best work together to accelerate efforts toward ending forced labor and improving working conditions across the seafood sector.

Initiative efforts will focus on five key strategic priorities:

  1. Identifying best practices for industry accountability and due diligence for decent working conditions throughout the seafood supply chain
  2. Exploring novel sources of information, and enhancing means to share and analyze that information, to better identify illegal and unsafe labor practices in fisheries
  3. Leveraging technology and supporting relevant organizations to reduce vulnerabilities of crew and observers to labor abuses at sea
  4. Exploring potential tools to enhance safety and labor conditions aboard U.S. vessels
  5. Supporting collaboration mechanisms across workers, governments, industry, and civil society to support workers within the seafood industry, including their ability to organize and access remediation and justice

It will focus on steps that can be taken outside the government to address this complex and complicated issue. The initial work of participants will be to develop clearly articulated, time-bound, and achievable deliverables under each of the priority areas. These deliverables should result in meaningful progress toward reducing forced labor in the seafood industry.

Join the Initiative

The initiative is open to participants from all relevant sectors—workers, harvesters, processors, retailers, brokers, NGOs, and think tanks. Experts from other sectors with experience in addressing labor issues may also participate in meetings and other initiatives on an ad-hoc basis.

NOAA Fisheries is committed to accelerating efforts toward ending illegal labor practices in the seafood supply chain, as well as promoting legal, safe, and healthy working conditions within the fishing industry.

Last updated by Office of International Affairs, Trade, and Commerce on August 02, 2022