Seafood Slavery, Piracy, and Fish Fraud – August 7, 2016

A lawsuit filed in May alleges that three major tuna brands ― Chicken of the Sea, Bumble Bee and Starkist ― secretly agreed not to remove unsustainably caught tuna from their supply chains. Last week, Greenpeace demanded 40 major U.S. food retailers and distributors including Walmart, Target, Costco and Kroger remove unsustainably sourced tuna. Thailand-based Chicken of the Sea has come under fire for links to seafood slavery and fishing practices that destroy marine habitats.

Another lawsuit alleges “human trafficking, forced labor, involuntary servitude and peonage” against Cambodian seafood workers. Keo Ratha, one of the plaintiffs, reported “the way they mistreated us was beyond words.” “What I really want is that the company that buys the products should look at every aspects of their suppliers, because it was not only me who was exploited, there are a lot of fishermen at sea who are suffering more exploitation than those on land,” said Ratha.


Captain Tim Walsh lands a double marker Swordfish on the F/V Helen L at Menemsha on Martha’s Vineyard


Captain David Tucker and his first mate of the F/V Grouperman with Gag Groupers at the dock in Beaufort, NC


One out of every four fish sold in the United States is illegally caught, but a new and surprisingly simple international accord could help turn the tide. In June, the world’s first legally binding treaty on illegal fishing, the Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing, came into force.

Illegal fishing is an enormous problem, bigger than most people would ever imagine,” says advocate Per Erik Bergh. The new rules are designed to deny entry ports to fishing pirates. “If you cannot sell your illegally caught fish, if you cannot get them into the market, then that big incentive is automatically taken away”. With the new U.S. reporting requirements for seafood imports, NOAA Fisheries will better identify and stop shipments of illegally caught seafood more effectively. The new rules are an important step in the longer-term implementation of a risk-based approach to seafood traceability.


Chef Russ Johnson of Ludivine in OKC with a Cubera Snapper from Destin, FL


However fish fraud remains rampant, with one in three samples tested in the U.S. found mislabeled. Friday’s Wall Street Journal ran an expose highlighting the perils of fish fraud, quoting Sea to Table’s Michael Dimin who advised to “follow the money”.

As has been said before: wild, sustainable, domestic, traceable seafood is the way.

All the best,

from the Dimin Family and the Sea to Table team

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