Human Rights on Land and at Sea

Changing the way we treat our oceans isn’t just about the creatures that live in them, it’s about the people that depend on them. Globally, more than 3 billion people depend on our oceans and coastal environments for their livelihood.

Crew on Rusting Fishing Vessel - Defending Our Oceans Tour (West Africa: 2006)

Many commercial fishing boats do not pay their workers a living wage, forcing them to live in slave-like conditions. Major U.S.-based seafood companies, especially in the canned tuna industry, have been turning a blind eye for years.

© Greenpeace / Pierre Gleizes

In the U.S. alone, ocean-dependent industries like tourism and transportation provide jobs for more than 2.3 million people, while fishing employs more than 1.9 million people. Depleted fisheries and polluted coastlines are disrupting the lives of millions of people worldwide.

And at sea, human rights violations abound on commercial fishing boats. It’s estimated that 10 to 15 percent of commercial fishermen worldwide work in slave-like conditions.

Holding Companies Responsible

As one of the world’s largest markets for seafood, U.S. businesses must take responsibility for what happens in their supply chains.

For starters, supermarkets and restaurants need to work with their suppliers to ensure that the fishermen providing their seafood are paid a living wage and treated humanely.

Targeting Tuna

The tuna industry has repeatedly failed consumers and fishermen across the globe on human rights. Fishermen on tuna boats often work under unjust conditions and in some cases are beaten, abused and even enslaved on ships for months or years at a time.

But that is starting to change. One of the largest tuna brands in the U.S., Chicken of the Sea, is owned by the world’s largest canned tuna company — Thai Union Group. After two years of global pressure, the company recently announced reforms to clean up its supply chains to help protect workers and our oceans. These commitments from Chicken of the Sea send a signal to the rest of the industry that it’s time to do better. Bumble Bee and Starkist must now follow suit.

Major tuna brands must be more transparent in their supply chains and ensure full traceability from sea to store shelvesUntil that happens, consumers cannot feel confident that their tuna is caught in a just and sustainable manner.

Watch and share these video testimonials from South Pacific tuna fishermen detailing the human rights abuses they’ve witnessed and experienced. 

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