Oceana Canada Report Reveals the Hidden Consequences of Canada’s Opaque Seafood Supply Chains
Press Release Date: November 5, 2020
OTTAWA — A report featuring new data from leading fisheries economists released today by Oceana Canada reveals that Canada’s weak seafood supply chain traceability standards are resulting in annual losses of up to $93.8 million in tax revenue and up to $379 million in revenue for Canadian seafood industry workers. On top of this, Canadians are unwittingly spending up to $160 million a year on seafood caught through illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing – including seafood potentially caught by victims of modern slavery.
“Canada has inadequate traceability standards in place to regulate our seafood supply chain and prevent illegal fishing, seafood fraud and mislabelling,” said Sayara Thurston, Seafood Fraud Campaigner, Oceana Canada. “The government must deliver on its mandate to implement boat-to-plate seafood traceability and avoid Canada being left behind in global best practices. It is in the best interests of the fisheries sector and consumers. Canadians deserve to feel confident that their seafood is safe, honestly labelled and legally caught.”
The federal government committed to implementing a boat-to-plate traceability system in 2019, but no timeline has been put in place for doing so. Some of Canada’s largest trading partners have had much stronger systems in place for years, including the United States and the European Union – the world’s largest seafood market.
“Illegal fishing and seafood fraud are complex global problems that Canada must play a part in ending. Right now, an endangered species of fish caught by modern slaves on a vessel fishing illegally can make its way onto Canadian supermarket shelves with no way for consumers to know its true origin, simply because safeguards to prevent this haven’t been put in place.” said Dr. Rashid Sumaila, lead researcher for the report, Director of the Fisheries Economics Research Unit & the Ocean Canada Partnership at the University of British Columbia and Oceana board member.
Market research from Abacus Data for Oceana Canada also released today shows that Canadians who eat seafood regularly or occasionally overwhelmingly support seafood traceability and are concerned about Canada’s poor labelling standards:
- 95 per cent support the government’s commitment to implement a boat-to-plate traceability system.
- 85 per cent would be more confident purchasing seafood if product labels included where, when and how seafood was caught.
- 74 per cent are less comfortable purchasing seafood products after learning about the current standards and their consequences.
- 40 per cent say they will purchase less seafood – or stop purchasing seafood all together – after learning about Canada’s current inadequate standards.
“To keep products of illegal fishing out of the Canadian market, and to ensure that honest Canadian fishers retain consumer trust and market access as expectations around transparent supply chains grow, the government must act to implement boat-to-plate traceability for all seafood caught and sold in Canada,” said Thurston.
Oceana Canada is calling on the Canadian government to outline a plan to deliver on its commitment in 2021, and is further calling for a system that includes:
- Requiring that key information follows all seafood products throughout the supply chain, from the boat or farm to the point of final sale, including catch documentation for all domestic and imported seafood;
- Improving traceability verification measures such as DNA testing for species authentication and enforcement that include significant penalties to deter fraud; and
- Improving seafood labelling by requiring that labels include more detailed and accurate information.
To raise awareness about the issue of human rights abuses in the global seafood industry, Oceana Canada is offering an exclusive opportunity to watch the documentary Ghost Fleet online from November 5-16, followed by an interactive online discussion with the film’s producer and Oceana Canada’s seafood fraud campaigner on November 12, 2020, at 2:00 p.m. EST. The film follows a small group of activists who risk their lives to liberate enslaved fishers in South East Asia, revealing a devastating and corrupt criminal conspiracy at the heart of the seafood industry. Click here to register.
To learn more about Oceana Canada’s campaign and to sign a petition calling on the government to address seafood traceability, visit oceana.ca/StopSeafoodFraud.
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.