Taipei – Major US seafood brand Bumble Bee and its Taiwanese owner, tuna trader FCF, are suspected to have illegal fishing and human rights abuse in its supply chain, according to a new investigative report by Greenpeace East Asia.
The “Fake My Catch – the unreliable traceability in our tuna cans” report finds that information provided by the consumer brand about its products is incomplete and, in some cases, incorrect. After collecting hundreds of cans from US supermarkets, Greenpeace East Asia (Taipei) and Greenpeace US entered 73 distinct can codes into Bumble Bee’s “Trace My Catch” (TMC) system, which allows consumers to track the source of its tuna products. The data was then cross-checked with the Taiwan Fisheries Agency (TFA) and Global Fishing Watch, an open-access tool that analyses global fishing activity.
Among Greenpeace East Asia’s findings:
- Over 10% (13) of the 119 Taiwanese-flagged/owned vessels identified in the sampling that supplied Bumble Bee had violated Taiwanese fishery regulations, and were on the TFA’s illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) list.
- Indicators of forced labor were identified in the reports of fishers that worked aboard six of the vessels that supplied Bumble Bee and FCF.
- Catch from Taiwanese-owned vessel Da Wang, whose crew were indicted on charges related to forced labor and human trafficking, has been used to supply Bumble Bee, raising concerns that seafood tainted with forced labor has already been sold in the US market. In addition, one migrant fisher died whilst working on Da Wang after an accident occurred, reportedly causing the other workers to quit due to the excessive physical abuse they endured.
Mallika Talwar, Senior Oceans Campaigner at Greenpeace US said:
“We are not surprised at the high level of disparity between what Bumble Bee tells US consumers and what was uncovered in this investigation. Bumble Bee claims to be for people and the planet, but what we see in this report is a company skirting its responsibilities in order to make profit. The US is one of the world’s largest seafood importers and can wield significant influence in bringing forced labor at sea to an end. Greenpeace organisations have spent years documenting human rights abuses in FCF’s supply chain. Knowing that there is a high chance of seafood tainted with such abuse entering the US market, we call on the US Customs and Border Protection to block the importation of FCF’s tainted products. In addition, the Biden Administration must end the era of US seafood companies and retailers profiting from seafood caught with forced labor.”
Greenpeace East Asia (Taipei) also interviewed 27 migrant fishers and found that all reported experiencing, or observing, at least one forced labor indicator as defined by the UN’s International Labour Organization (ILO). Of the nine who worked on the six vessels supplying fish to Bumble Bee and FCF, all reported excessive overtime, and almost all reported the withholding of wages and retention of documents, which is sometimes used by vessel operators or manning agencies to deter or prevent fishers from leaving or terminating their contracts early.
The fishers also described the living and working conditions to be harsh. According to a statement by one fisher, Mr. J who worked on Taiwanese flagged vessel Jubilee:
“We worked at least 16 hours a day, and sometimes our work started at 1pm and ended at 5am the next day.”
Yuton Lee, Oceans Campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia (Taipei) said:
“FCF, as Bumble Bee’s parent company, should stop hiding behind an untrustworthy trace tool and avoiding its responsibility. FCF emphasizes its importance and commitment to environmental sustainability and human rights. But there is a significant gap between its policies and reality. This investigation demonstrates how seafood companies risk taking advantage of the vulnerability of fishers and how slavery-tainted seafood can enter consumer markets all over the world. By sourcing from fishing vessels that have engaged in or are suspected of IUU fishing and human rights abuse, both Bumble Bee and FCF effectively deny the efforts law-abiding fishers have put into creating a sustainable and moral fishery, and fail to defend those fishers’ rights for fair competition. As one of the top three tuna traders in the world, FCF holds great responsibility to stop this exploitation – for the health of our ocean, the lives of fishers at sea, and for safe consumer choices.”
Among the recommendations, Greenpeace East Asia calls on Bumble Bee and FCF to: issue an apology to the exploited fishers, retailers, and consumers; remove products suspected of IUU and forced labor-tainted tuna from the market; fully disclose their supplying vessels list; and establish an independent investigation committee for the flaws in Trace My Catch.
FCF, Bumble Bee, and owners of 24 Taiwanese-related vessels were all given the opportunity to comment. FCF, Bumble Bee, and seven vessel owners did not respond. Other vessel owners said they were not able to verify or denied all allegations.
Photo and video collection available from the Greenpeace Media Library.
 The codes were taken from Bumble Bee cans sold in Arlington, Virginia; Washington, DC; Durham, North Carolina; Chicago, Illinois; and Columbia, Maryland.
 The six vessels are: De Chan No.116, Eagle, Jubilee, Ren Horng Chun No.168, Ren Horng Way No.368, Yi Man
 The seven fishing vessels that did not reply to Greenpeace are Chun I No.217, Eagle, Jin Wen No.99, Jubilee, Man Chi Feng, Yi Feng No.816, Zhen Feng No.8.
Tanya Brooks, Senior Communications Specialist at Greenpeace USA, (+1) 703-342-9226, [email protected]
Eliza Yang, Communications Officer at Greenpeace East Asia (Taipei), (+886) 958-658-612, [email protected]
Shuk-Wah Chung, Communications Lead, global fisheries campaign with Greenpeace International, (+852) 5420 4186, [email protected]
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Note: This post was edited on 8 Sept 2022 after a layout error was found. The IMO and registration numbers have been corrected on pages 22, 24, and 27.