Because Canada has no effective accountability in our seafood supply chain, fish obtained by illegal and unregulated means can easily (and profitably) find their way onto our dinner plates. By the time illegally caught fish reaches consumers, its true identity is a mystery.31
Although extensive studies have not been conducted in Canada, a recent report estimated that 25–30 per cent of wild-caught seafood imported into the United States comes from illegal and unreported sources and has a value of $1.3–$2 billion US.32 Experts suggest that the percentage of IUU seafood in Canada would be the same, if not higher, given the similarities between the United States and Canadian imports, the significant amount of seafood imported from the United States into Canada and Canada’s weaker legislation.33
IUU fishing practices mask human rights abuses. Working environments on these vessels or facilities can be extremely unsafe, and child labour is common.34 On top of that, there is extensive evidence of the organized and systemic use of modern slavery by vessels engaged in illegal fishing.35,36,37 Undocumented migrants are being kidnapped, sold and tricked onto fishing vessels to work as forced labourers or indentured slaves. Escaped slaves have told of egregious human rights violations, including physical abuse, torture and even murder.
Clearly, Canada has a responsibility to address IUU fishing. In June 2018, at the G7 Summit hosted in Charlevoix, Quebec,38 leaders committed to taking action to fight IUU fishing, including the implementation of unique vessel identifiers. However, there are currently few measures in place to stop illegal products from entering Canadian supply chains. Full-chain traceability will ensure that the seafood entering Canadian supply chains is legally caught.