NOAA Fisheries Initiative Would Improve Seafood Sector Working Conditions

Image via NOAA Fisheries.

A new public-private initiative from NOAA Fisheries aims to promote legal and safe working conditions in order to end forced labor in the commercial fishing and seafood industry.

The Collaborative Accelerator for Lawful Maritime Conditions in Seafood, aka CALM-CS, aims to put a halt to illegal and inhumane working conditions, such as forced labor. NOAA Fisheries officials said these conditions contribute to destabilization of maritime security and supply chains, and the degradation of fisheries and broader marine ecosystems, and also undermine U.S. economic competitiveness, national security and fishery sustainability.

Senior officials from the Departments of Commerce, State and Labor, the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S Agency for International Development recently met with representatives of businesses humanitarian groups and government agencies to discuss collaborative approaches to support decent working conditions in the seafood sector.

CALM-CS efforts are to focus on five key strategic priorities, including collaboration mechanisms to support workers in the seafood industry, such as their ability to organize and access remediation and justice.

CALM-CS would also explore novel sources of information to better identify illegal and unsafe labor practices in fisheries, identify best practices for industry accountability and due diligence for decent working conditions throughout the seafood supply chain, and leveraging technology and supporting relevant organizations to reduce vulnerabilities of crew and observers to labor abuses at sea.

“By coming together to address illegal labor practices, we can have a positive impact on seafood industry workers and families around the world and help ensure the stability of the broader seafood supply chain,” U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said.

Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans & Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator Richard Spinrad said his hope is that CALM-CS “can leverage the urgency we all feel toward these issues and be just one part of the response to this call for action that is shared around the world.”

Forced labor has been identified as particularly challenging in the seafood industry because fishing activity is often isolated, with vessels spending months to years at sea, impeding the escape from, or reporting of labor abuse.