Oceana Canada calls on Federal Government: Make Seafood Supply Chains Traceable to Combat Overfishing, Mislabelling and Unlawful Labour Practices
The federal government is failing Canada’s seafood industry and consumers by not delivering on its long-standing commitments to transparent, traceable seafood supply chains
Press Release Date: August 30, 2022
Ottawa, ON – Oceana Canada is once again calling on the Federal Government to put a stop to murky global seafood supply chains that allow for overfishing, mislabelling, and forcing seafaring workers to work under conditions that are unacceptable by international standards.
Most of the wild-caught seafood consumed in Canada — 63 per cent — is imported, yet unacceptable working conditions, including forced labour, are common in the fishing industry globally. Oceana Canada worked with academics who analyzed Canada’s role in fighting human rights abuses in global seafood supply chains, finding that Canada is dramatically behind other OECD nations.
“This makes Canadians unwittingly complicit in unacceptable working conditions and forced labour in a range of global fisheries,” said Sayara Thurston, seafood campaigner at Oceana Canada. “One way to help tackle this is with boat-to-plate seafood traceability. This would help close market doors to fisheries that are not sustainable and rely on underpaid or mistreated workers by blocking the import of seafood products that cannot be traced back to a well-managed fishery.”
Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing practices worldwide contribute directly to overfishing, threatening the sustainability of marine ecosystems and fish populations. These practices undermine coastal communities’ livelihoods and food security and create unfair competition for fishers operating legally. The association between IUU fishing and human, drug and weapons trafficking and labour rights abuses makes it an urgent human rights issue.
New market research conducted by Abacus Data for Oceana Canada in spring 2022 found that the government is failing to meet Canadians’ expectations for transparent seafood supply chains. Ninety per cent of Canadians want more information on seafood labels, including the original location of the catch, along with where and how the fish or seafood was caught. Nearly three-quarters of Canadians also feel that the government should take action to prevent seafood from forced labour making its way into Canada, with two-thirds stating they are less likely to purchase a seafood product if they find out that it was the product of forced labour.
In 2019, the federal government pledged to implement boat-to-plate traceability for seafood, and more recently, it further committed to enacting legislation to address the use of forced labour in Canadian supply chains. To date, however, concrete progress has not been made on either commitment, leaving Canada’s seafood supply chains open to fraud and products of illegal practices.
“Canada has made the right commitments to improving transparency in our seafood supply chains, but without action, Canadians have no assurances that products of illegal practices are not still making their way into our country,” said Thurston. “Canada needs comprehensive legislation that ensures transparent, traceable seafood supply chains. This will have a direct impact on ending overfishing, mislabelling, and forced labour and unacceptable working conditions for seafood industry workers around the world.”
Compared to other major markets, Canada is lagging; the European Union implemented a catch certification scheme, boat-to-plate traceability, and comprehensive labelling for all marine wild-caught fish entering the EU market in 2010. The United States has had a catch documentation requirement and boat-to-border traceability for certain at-risk species in place since 2018. Canadian fishers who themselves sell to these markets are already compliant with more rigorous traceability requirements than the products we allow to be sold in Canada.
Oceana Canada encourages Canadians to sign a petition calling on the Canadian government to implement fully traceable seafood supply chains and #StopSeafoodExploitation.
Oceana Canada was established as an independent charity in 2015 and is part of the largest international advocacy group dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana Canada has successfully campaigned to end the shark fin trade, make rebuilding depleted fish populations the law, improve the way fisheries are managed and protect marine habitat. We work with civil society, academics, fishers, Indigenous Peoples and the federal government to return Canada’s formerly vibrant oceans to health and abundance. By restoring Canada’s oceans, we can strengthen our communities, reap greater economic and nutritional benefits and protect our future. Find out more at www.oceana.ca.