Greenpeace Calls on Thai Union to Lead on Human Rights in Response to Global Trafficking in Persons Report

Report follows New York Times investigation implicating Thai Union in slavery at sea

July 27, 2015

Washington, DC—Today, the U.S. Department of State released its 2015 Global Trafficking in Persons Report, which maintained Thailand’s Tier 3 designation. The annual report places countries onto one of three tiers based on the extent of their efforts to comply with "minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking."

“Thailand continues to fail thousands of enslaved individuals and consumers around the world with its lagging efforts to address human trafficking,” said Greenpeace Oceans Campaigns Director John Hocevar. “The country’s seafood industry is particularly egregious on human rights issues with new investigations released almost monthly detailing deplorable conditions on Thai fishing vessels. We support maintaining Thailand at a Tier 3 designation until the country takes serious steps to combat human trafficking.”

Additionally, hours before the release of the trafficking report, a New York Times investigation revealed that Thailand’s Thai Union, the world’s largest producer of canned tuna, has once again had its supply chain connected to slavery at sea. The story followed fishermen, many from Cambodia, who were held captive and forced to work on a Thai fishing boat, which supplies Songkla Canning Public Co., a pet food exporter owned by Thai Union.

Thai Union is the largest canned tuna producer in the world, owning both Chicken of the Sea and soon Bumble Bee in the United States, along with supplying retailers like Walmart and Costco. A recent Associated Press investigation also revealed significant labor abuses in the company’s supply chain.

“It’s not a coincidence that the world’s largest producer of canned tuna continues to be singled out for its poor track record on human rights,” said Hocevar. “Whether it’s the pet food we feed our dogs and cats or the tuna we feed our kids, the cans on our pantry shelves could very well be filled by people who are forced to work, regularly beaten or even murdered at sea. At this time, American consumers should not feel good about going near any product connected to Thai Union, including Bumble Bee and Chicken of the Sea.”

In 2014, Thailand was downgraded to a Tier 3 ranking for its failure to address forced labor, particularly within the seafood industry. Today’s trafficking report and New York Times investigation come on the heels of a “yellow card” from the European Union earlier this year for the country’s failure to adequately monitor its fishing industry.

Of particular concern is the Thai fishing industry’s widespread use of transhipment at sea. Instead of fishing boats returning to port with their catch, they hand it over to shadowy vessels and continue fishing – often for many months at a time. This puts fishermen, particularly undocumented migrants, in dangerous positions as they have no opportunity to escape. It also contributes to overfishing, as transhipment artificially drives down the cost of fishing and increases the pressure on fish populations.

“Thailand’s government must act with a sense of urgency, but it is equally important for seafood industry giants to lead the way,” continued Hocevar. “Thai Union’s recklessness on the water is devastating for human beings and the ocean alike.”

For more information contact Myriam Fallon, 708.546.9001, [email protected].

To view the 2015 Global Trafficking in Persons Report, click here.

To read the New York Times investigation, click here.

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