Greenpeace Investigation Reveals New Incidents of Forced Labor on Thai-operated Vessels

by Perry Wheeler

November 3, 2015

Washington, DC - Thai Union Group, owner of Chicken of the Sea in the U.S., has failed to alleviate concerns over human rights abuses in the company’s tuna supply chain, according to a Greenpeace Southeast Asia investigation, despite recent media scrutiny of its business operations.

The report features new interviews with survivors of trafficking and forced labor in Indonesia who faced abuse and food deprivation on Thai-operated fishing vessels. These ships transferred their tuna and other fish to a Thai carrier vessel, Marine One, which is owned by Thailand’s Silver Sea Line Co. Ltd – the same company implicated in a recent Associated Press investigation for transporting seafood caught using forced labor to a Thai Union supplier.

“Thai Union must do more to ensure its tuna products are supplied by vessels free of forced labor,” said Greenpeace USA Global Seafood Markets Project Leader Graham Forbes. “Until the company audits its entire supply chain and makes significant policy changes, Chicken of the Sea customers can’t feel confident in the tuna they are feeding their families.”

Over 96 percent of Thai Union’s tuna is sourced from areas other than Thailand, yet the company has only committed to a human rights audit for the 4 percent of tuna caught in Thai waters, along with its shrimp operations. Thai Union has also ended the transfer of fish from ships to larger shadowy vessels in Thai waters, a process known as transhipment, but has not addressed the same issue for the majority of its tuna which is sourced from other countries. Transhipment at sea exacerbates the risk of human rights abuse by enabling vessels to trap workers and stay at sea indefinitely.

Following the Associated Press exposé earlier this year, Thai Union announced it would drop the supplier connected to labor abuse in the investigation. However, the company did not state that it would stop sourcing fish from Silver Sea Line Co. Ltd reefers, which have again been implicated in the transhipment of fish caught by forced labor. In its report, Greenpeace Southeast Asia called on Thai Union to address labor issues throughout its seafood supply chains by ending purchases from any vessels transhipping at sea, ensuring the traceability of all products back to the ship, and increasing transparency throughout its operations.

“Thai Union has the power to transform the entire tuna industry and help individuals forced to catch our food around the globe,” said Forbes. “It’s clear that comprehensive reforms are needed to bring about real change, and thus far the company has failed to deliver.”

The forced labor and trafficking survivors interviewed by Greenpeace Southeast Asia detailed beatings and food deprivation for anyone who tried to escape. The tuna fishermen on their vessels were forced to work 20-22 hour days for little to no pay, often deprived of basic necessities like showers.

Greenpeace launched a global campaign demanding that Thai Union take far-reaching steps to eliminate labor abuse and destructive, wasteful fishing practices from its supply chains. Last week, a mermaid activist joined Greenpeace for a demonstration against Chicken of the Sea at its headquarters in San Diego.  To date, over 250,000 people around the world have joined an online campaign to urge Thai Union to embrace sustainable and ethical fishing practices.


Notes to editors:

To read the entire report, please click here:

To view a Greenpeace infographic on labor abuse and canned tuna, click here:

To watch video testimonials from forced labor and trafficking survivors, click here:

Media contacts:

Perry Wheeler, Greenpeace USA Media Officer, P: 301-675-8766

Mark Dia, Regional Oceans Campaign Coordinator, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, +639178430549

Graham Forbes, Global Seafood Markets Project Leader, Greenpeace USA, 831-402-7763

Perry Wheeler

By Perry Wheeler

Perry Wheeler is a senior communications specialist at Greenpeace USA.

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