23 May 2022
Statement by the SEA Alliance in response to the University of Nottingham Report Letting exploitation off the hook? Evidencing labour abuses in UK fishing and the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) report A One Way Ticket to Labour Exploitation.
SEA Alliance members are appalled by the reports of abuses in the UK fishing industry. Whilst we recognise that there has been work towards improving conditions and addressing regulatory gaps in recent years, there is clearly a need for systemic change that addresses the needs and welfare of all fishers, and prevents any further abuses from occurring. The SEA Alliance wishes to work collaboratively with all stakeholders to help bring about the change we need to see for fishers.
The instances of abuse and mistreatment described in the report by the University of Nottingham are deeply concerning. Any form of human rights or labour abuse is completely unacceptable.
Directly engaging fishers in their own language, as this study did, is important to better understanding the experiences of those that work on fishing boats and catch our fish. We commend the University of Nottingham for doing this work, and the bravery of those that took the time to speak about the unacceptable challenges they have faced.
Any fisher experiencing abuse and exploitation is one too many, and it is clear from the research, as well as other recent research, that there are systemic issues that need to be addressed.
We also welcome the briefing by the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) to shine a light on the use of transit visas to recruit migrant workers. We agree that these visas render workers vulnerable to exploitation and have been in use for an unacceptably long time. We share the view of both the ITF and members of the fishing industry that there should be a more suitable way to recruit workers into the sector – one that ensures fishers are not abused or exploited and that is consistent with the ILO’s Work in Fishing Convention.
We believe that the remediation of these issues will achieve the best outcomes when it involves collaboration between workers organisations, the fishing industry and seafood businesses, NGOs, regulatory bodies and other key stakeholders. We will work to support this process, in
acknowledgment of the fact that ensuring respect for human rights is a shared responsibility of all those in the supply chain.
Whilst some of the more systemic changes may take some time to achieve, we will work at pace on the immediate actions that can be taken to drive necessary changes in conditions for workers. This includes ensuring that all workers in seafood supply chains know where to go for help and support should they need it, and are able to safely report abuse to the relevant government agencies and support organisations.
As a collective voice the SEA Alliance will in specific instances support and engage with advocacy initiatives. The SEA Alliance will also make statements and respond when there are concerns about ethical issues in the supply chain.
These advocacy initiatives will always be supported by the great majority of SEA Alliance participants but they do not necessarily represent the views of every participant organisation on every occasion.
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