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UN intervention needed on suspected murder case linked to Bumble Bee Foods parent company

July 13, 2020

Greenpeace responds to suspected murder of I-Kiribati fisheries observer

New York, NY – The suspected murder of an I-Kiribati fisheries observer in March of this year demands UN intervention to ensure effective and thorough investigation, according to a formal complaint by Greenpeace USA and the Association for Professional Observers (APO).[1]

The complaint, submitted on behalf of the family of the deceased fisheries observer Eritara Aati Kaierua, and addressed to the newly appointed UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Mary Lawlor, asks to ensure observers are protected and those responsible for the death of Kaierua are held accountable. 

“Fishery observers protect the needs of vulnerable communities and defend our human right to a healthy environment. Yet companies, governments, and multilateral organizations continue to fail to protect them from intimidation, abuse, and death. Greenpeace USA calls on the UN Special Rapporteur, Mary Lawlor, to intervene in the case of Eritara Aati Kaierua to ensure that the investigation meets international legal standards, and the family of Kaierua receive full and effective remedies from all responsible parties,” says Andy Shen, Senior Oceans Adviser at Greenpeace USA.

On March 3, 2020, crewmembers reported Kaierua’s death to the Fisheries Agency of Taiwan during his work assignment on the Win Far No.636, a Taiwanese-flagged tuna purse seining vessel owned by Kuo Hsiung Fishery.[2] According to public records, the Win Far No.636 is a key supplier to Taiwan’s FCF Co, Ltd. (FCF), one of the top three tuna traders in the world. FCF, the parent company of major US canned tuna brand Bumble Bee Foods, has previously been linked to companies that have allegedly perpetrated egregious human rights abuses.[3] In response, FCF said they are awaiting the outcome of the official investigation before further commenting on the Win Far No.636 case.

Kaieruai was employed through a regional observer program of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), a Regional Fisheries Management Organization (RFMO). According to the WCPFC, observers have reported multiple occasions of both intimidation and crew requests to not report events. Globally, only four of the 17 RFMOs, including WCPFC, have any protocol for an observer death or disappearance.

“There have been at least 14 fishery observer deaths in the last decade, but not a single legitimate investigation. On paper the WCPFC appears to protect observers, but the reality is that they are still dying and disappearing. Flag States’ lack of compliance, and the RFMOs’ lack of enforcement and lack of transparency also contribute to impunity. Tragically, the families of these observers suffer from lack of remedy at the hands of regional authorities,” says Elizabeth Mitchell, Executive Director at Association for Professional Observers.[4] 

Greenpeace USA and APO further call on the Special Rapporteur to advocate that RFMOs incorporate in their regulations that States comply with international standards on investigations of potentially unlawful deaths. Non-compliance should result in a determination that working aboard fishing vessels flagged to such State is unsafe and end their eligibility for the RFMO’s regional observer program.[5]

ENDS

Photos available here

Copy of complaint to the UN is available on request.

Notes to Editor

[1] Fisheries observers are professional human rights defenders who protect the right to a healthy environment by providing oversight onboard distant water fishing fleets, and helping ensure sustainable catch levels and compliance for conservation measures.

[2] According to information provided to Kaierua’s family by the police and a coroner, Kaierua was found lying on the floor of his cabin with blood spurted across his face and food over his chest and neck. The family was also told there was bruising on his chest and neck and the likely cause of death was a severe blow to the top of the head that resulted in a traumatic brain injury.

[3] See also Misery at Sea report by Greenpeace East Asia.

[4] Observer Casualties, Injuries, and Near Misses

[5] Greenpeace USA and APO advocate for RFMO member States to comply with the best practices contained in the 2016 Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death. Such policies must be assessed by RFMOs and the consequence of non-compliance by State parties should be expulsion from the RFMO regional observer program that employed the killed or disappeared observer.

Contacts

Tyler Kruse: Senior Communications Specialist at Greenpeace USA, +1 (808) 741-2791, [email protected]

Shuk-Wah Chung: Communications Lead, global fisheries campaign with Greenpeace Southeast Asia, (+61) 405 698 690, [email protected] 

Elizabeth Mitchell: Executive Director, Association for Professional Observers, +1 (541) 515-3716, [email protected]

Greenpeace International Press Desk: [email protected], +31 (0) 20 718 2470 (available 24 hours)

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