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Illegal fishing, worker abuse claims leave a bad taste for Bumble Bee Seafood

By Elizabeth Claire Alberts - Mongabay, September 2, 2022

  • A new report published by Greenpeace East Asia has found that Bumble Bee Seafoods and its parent company, Fong Chun Formosa Fishery Company (FCF) of Taiwan, are sourcing seafood from vessels involved in human rights abuses as well as illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing practices.
  • It found that 13 vessels supplying seafood to Bumble Bee violated Taiwanese fishery regulations, and were even on the Taiwan Fisheries Agency’s (TFA) list of vessels involved in IUU fishing, and that many supply vessels were involved in issues of forced labor and human trafficking.
  • Both Bumble Bee and FCF have sustainability and corporate social responsibility policies in place.

On April 10, 2019, a fishing vessel known as Da Wang left Taiwan to sail out into distant waters in search of tuna. Two months into the voyage, a disturbance occurred: the first mate reportedly beat one of the crew members so badly that he died from his injuries. The following year, another crew member was injured while working on the same vessel — but according to reports, his superiors forced him to continue working, and he eventually suffered a stroke.

Yet tuna sourced from this very vessel continues to be packaged and sold for the Bumble Bee Seafood Company and sold in grocery stores in the U.S., according to a new report.

The report, published Sept. 1 by Greenpeace East Asia, suggests that Bumble Bee Seafood and its parent company, Taiwan-based Fong Chun Formosa Fishery Company (or FCF) — one of the top tuna traders in the world — are sourcing seafood from vessels involved not only in human rights abuses, but also in illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing practices. This is despite both companies having corporate social responsibility and sustainability policies in place.

The authors found that 13 vessels supplying seafood to Bumble Bee violated Taiwanese fishery regulations, and were even on the Taiwan Fisheries Agency’s (TFA) list of vessels involved in IUU fishing. Moreover, they identified issues of forced labor and human trafficking on six Taiwanese vessels that supply seafood to Bumble Bee and FCF after conducting interviews with crew members.

Fake My Catch: The Unreliable Traceability in our Tuna Cans

By staff - Greenpeace East Asia, September 2022

US seafood company Bumble Bee, one of the leading companies in the canned tuna market with nearly 90% consumer awareness levels,1 and its Taiwanese parent company Fong Chun Formosa Fishery Company (hereinafter referred to as FCF), one of the top three global tuna traders, play an important role in the global tuna industry, and thus hold responsibility over the health of our ocean, the treatment of those working in the tuna supply chain and consumer choices. Both companies have policies on sustainability and corporate social responsibility that are supposed to extend through their supply chain, but according to the analysis in this report, neither are meeting their responsibilities.

This report finds that the information on Bumble Bee’s “Trace My Catch” website, which enables consumers to track the source of their tuna product from catch to can, is insufficient and in some cases incorrect. In a number of cases Greenpeace East Asia's analysis found that the company was sourcing fish from vessels that had engaged in or were suspected of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, forced labor, and/or human rights abuses. Therefore, Bumble Bee may not be fulfilling its responsibility and commitment to environmental sustainability and human rights, and without consumers’ knowledge seafood tainted with IUU and forced labor may have already entered the US market.

Based on 732 valid Bumble Bee tuna product codes, this report finds that Bumble Bee tuna was sourced from 290 different vessels, almost half of which are Taiwanese-flagged (119) or owned (22) distant water fishing vessels according to the information on Trace My Catch. In addition, some information on their Trace My Catch website contradicts official information from the Taiwan Fisheries Agency about where the supply vessel was authorized to fish. Verifying the vessel's location against a third data source- Automatic Identification System (AIS) data from Global Fishing Watch, revealed that 28 fishing vessels’ fishing area information provided by Bumble Bee’s traceability tool was incorrect. In addition, 13 fishing vessels that supplied tuna to Bumble Bee were listed on TFA’s website for IUU fishing.

Based on interviews with nine fishers on six Taiwanese vessels that supplied Bumble Bee, it was found that all nine fishers had experienced or observed at least one of the International Labor Organization (ILO) indicators of forced labor,3 and six out of those nine fishers had experienced or observed four or more of the 11 indicators. All of the fishers interviewed said they have experienced excessive overtime and retention of identity documents, and over two-thirds of them had their wages withheld.

Greenpeace East Asia research found that Bumble Bee canned tuna collected from Harris Teeter (a wholly owned subsidiary of Kroger Co.) in Arlington, Virginia on April 12, 2022 was sourced from DA WANG, a Taiwanese-owned vessel confirmed to use forced labor by US Customs and Border Protection.4 In April 2022, Taiwanese authorities indicted the vessel captain, first mate, and seven others for their involvement for forced labor and human trafficking. Bumble Bee's Trace My Catch website lists the source of this tuna as DA WANG on a trip in 2019, during which a fisher was reportedly beaten and died at sea. This leads to strong inference that seafood tainted with forced labor has already been sold in the US market.

On another Taiwanese fishing vessel, DE CHAN NO.116 evidence was revealed from Greenpeace East Asia interviews with fishers as well as Global Fishing Watch AIS data of suspected IUU fishing, including alleged shark finning and illegal transshipment at sea. The alleged illegal activities took place during a period when the ship was supplying tuna to Bumble Bee according to Trace My Catch.

Greenpeace East Asia urges immediate action from Bumble Bee and FCF, including issuing an apology to the exploited fishers, retailers and consumers, removing products suspected of IUU and forced labor-tainted tuna from the market, disclosure of their supplying vessels list, and establishment of an independent investigation committee for the flaw of Trace My Catch, to address issues of sustainability, legality and forced labor in their supply chain.

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Book Review: Eat Like a Fish; My Adventures as a Fisherman Turned Restorative Ocean Farmer

By x344543 - IWW Environmental Union Caucus, August 11, 2022

Eat Like a Fish: My Adventures as a Fisherman Turned Restorative Ocean Farmer (2019: Knopf Publishing), is a personal, autobiographical account by Bren Smith, a one time, working class fisherman and native of Newfoundland turned pioneer of regenerative ocean agriculture.

In his early adult and working life, Smith experienced all the horrors of capitalist fishing industry, including its deeply detrimental effects on workers, the environment, and consumers. After much trial and error, mostly error, and after many wrong turns in life, he learned methods of regenerative ocean farming.

Regenerative ocean farming involves growing seaweed & kelp in poly cultures vertically in small cubic volumes of water. It also can include shellfish and other aquatic species which clean toxins out of the ocean, diversify and increase biomass, and restore once dead zones. If done on a massive scale, they can be a major (if overlooked) solution to climate change which produces food, creates livelihoods, and restores the ocean environment.

How Lobstermen Formed a Union Co-op to Claw Back Fair Prices

By Bernadette King Fitzsimons and Rebecca Lurie - Labor Notes, February 7, 2022

When you think of workers hamstrung by the “independent contractor” label, you probably don’t think of Maine lobstermen.

But it turns out that lobstermen—a title claimed by women as well as men who catch and sell lobster for a living—have something in common with warehouse temps and Uber drivers. As independent contractors they’re denied the collective bargaining rights and various other workplace protections and benefits afforded (to some) by U.S. labor law.

And the strategy they used to confront low wages is one that similarly exploited workers might want to try too: they teamed up with a union to set up a worker-owned co-op.

The lobstermen partnered with the Machinists to create both an affiliate union local and a marketing cooperative. Their success demonstrates how union membership coupled with worker ownership can strengthen worker power.

As the Biden Administration Eyes Wind Leases Off California’s Coast, the Port of Humboldt Sees Opportunity

By Emma Foehringer Merchant - Inside Climate News, January 5, 2022

The administration wants to sell its first lease in 2022, and a new bill in California requires a plan. Some in Humboldt have been waiting years for this moment to arrive.

In the early 20th century, the U.S. Census Bureau declared Humboldt County, California—now famous for its redwoods—the “principal center” of the state’s lumber industry. In 1900, the product accounted for nearly 60 percent of the region’s exports. 

But now, though lumber yards and wood suppliers still line Humboldt Bay, the industry is a shadow of its former self. 

“You look at old photographs of Humboldt Bay from back then and there’s mills everywhere, pulp mills and ships and docks,” said Matthew Marshall, executive director of the Redwood Coast Energy Authority. “As that retracted there’s a lot of available land and waterfront …. So, there’s a big opportunity.”

The Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA)—a power organization formed by the County of Humboldt and Northern Californian cities such as Trinidad and Eureka—has been working for years to prepare for that opportunity. In 2018, RCEA submitted an unsolicited application to the U.S. Department of the Interior in hopes of building wind energy in waters just west of Humboldt Bay. 

Wind energy on the Northeast Brazilian coast and the contradictions between ‘clean energy’, injustices and environmental racism

By Cris Faustino and Beatriz Fernandes - World Rainforest Movement, July 9, 2021

In dominant models of energy production and consumption, the centralization of the energy matrix and the concentration of decision-making power remain, and with all the marks of inequalities, patriarchy and environmental racism, even if the source of energy has changed.

Energy production in the face of demand to sustain, develop and expand predominant urban-industrial-capitalist ways of life in so-called global society, does not take place without high levels of interference on a daily basis in nature and the environment, as well as in multiple societies and peoples, their territories and experiences. Regardless of the source of energy and of the technology used to generate it, in these dominant models, energy ventures produce countless socio-environmental conflicts, risks and damage in contexts of deep-seated inequalities.

It just so happens that in Brazil and Latin America, the dynamics of demand for, access to and use of land, water and territory, as well as the ecological and socio-environmental harm that results from them, carry the inheritance of historical facts. An example of this is the expropriation of others’ territories and the setting up of a political, economic, legal, military and religious power based on the supremacy of the colonizer, white men and women, over indigenous and black people. In these processes, violence, subjugation and violation of bodies, of history and of dignity, were instituted as methods. To this day, despite all the achievements in terms of winning rights, these inheritances are encrusted in the dominant political, economic and socio-cultural powers. In the current socio-environmental conflicts, such inheritances manifest themselves in the naturalization of white privileges over state policies and in the relations of the state and the private sector with each other and with black populations, indigenous peoples, riverine peoples, fisherfolk, quilombola communities and others. These do not necessarily have as a reference the consumerist and energy-intensive models of living and organizing life.

In these circumstances, even if the source for producing energy via the wind industry in Brazil, and particularly in the Northeast Region, is considered technologically and ecologically cleaner, the concrete way in which wind farms are implemented is marked by the productivist/consumerist logic. According to the values of this logic, the provision of human needs is only viable in the form of hyper-exploitation and profits at the expense of the environment, of territories and their peoples. And this does not take place without being cut across by structural racism and its expressions in the environmental reality and in the democratic fragilities involved in ensuring the rights of peoples.

Industrial Consumption: A largely invisible yet decisive underlying cause of the crisis

By Justiça Ambiental! and WoMIN - World Rainforest Movement, July 9, 2021

Industrial consumption is an intrinsic aspect of capitalist’s logic of increasing accumulation. It is also an underlying cause of the current crisis, which is being reinforced by initiatives promoting a ‘green’ label for the same production chains. This article highlights the voices of Justiça Ambiental! in Mozambique and the African ecofeminist alliance WoMIN.

This article highlights the voices of two organizations: Justiça Ambiental! (JA!) in Mozambique, which is accompanying the struggles in Cabo Delgado against the extraction of offshore and inland gas deposits; and WoMIN, an African ecofeminist alliance that works with movements of women and communities impacted by mining activities.

The world is in the midst of a serious and manifold crisis, one that brings together concerns over environmental devastation, climate chaos, loss of biological diversity, large-scale deforestation, social inequality, food insecurity, increasing poverty levels, and the concentration of power and land into fewer hands. And the list could go on and on. Industrial consumption is a vital aspect of what is driving this crisis, that is, an underlying cause. These are causes that operate on a global scale and consist of economic, political and social components that influence each other.

It is important to remark that the term industrial consumption should be understood not as the individual act of consuming, but rather as a consequence of the systemic logic of the capitalist economy of ever increasing accumulation. That means that each company, in order to make more profits, needs to grow and, in many cases, produce more and promote bigger and new markets for expansion; but to produce more, a company also needs to consume more resources (particularly energy, land and water).

Massive amounts of energy, from different sources, are distributed to industries to feed their production chains. Thousands of hectares of fertile land are turned into cash crops for industrial purposes. Mines and industrial plantations around the world siphon off and pollute enormous amounts of already scarce water sources. (1) Land is increasingly under the control of fewer individuals. Each day, enormous quantities of herbicides, insecticides, fungicides and fertilizers are produced and used by tree plantation companies and other agribusiness sectors. Minerals and fossil fuels continue to be extracted and transported across the globe via long and frequently militarized corridors of pipelines, waterways and roads. Ports, airports, highways and storage units are constantly being built and expanded to facilitate faster and cheaper connections between industries and markets. And so on. This systemic logic of ever-increasing production and consumption reinforces, at the same time, models of structural oppression, racism and patriarchy.

Industrial consumption, by and large, is now being reinforced by official and corporate initiatives trying to promote a new ‘green’ label for the same economic model. The targets set by companies and governments to reduce pollution, deforestation and biodiversity loss are mostly presented next to economic packages endorsing economic growth, free trade and globalized capitalism. And what does this mean? Basically, more industrial consumption and production. Likewise, the so-called ‘green’ or ‘low carbon’ economy is being promoted alongside market-based policies that pretend to offset the pollution and destruction that is intrinsic to such an economic model. In a nutshell, the so-called ‘transition’ aims to maintain and allow the same economic model that is actually driving the crisis to continue uninterrupted.

UFAW-Unifor proposals to save the Pacific salmon fishery not included in government announcement of closures

By Lee Wengraf - Tempest, June 29, 2021

On June 29, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) announced the closure of 79 salmon fisheries on the Pacific coast. Along with the closures, the press release also announced a new Pacific Salmon Commercial Transition Program – described so far only as a voluntary program which offers harvesters the option to retire their licenses for fair market value, with the goal of permanently reducing the number of fishers and reducing the size of the industry. The government press release states: “Over the coming months DFO will be engaging with commercial salmon licence holders to work collaboratively on developing the program, assess the fair market value or their licences and confirm the design of the program. All commercial salmon licence holders will have an opportunity to participate in this initiative.” This is part of the Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative (PSSI) announced on June 8, and falls under the “Harvest transformation pillar” of the strategy.

UFAWU-Unifor is the union representing commercial fishers. Their response to the closures is here (June 29), and reflects surprise and concern for the future. Further, it states: “While it’s widely agreed that a license retirement program is needed, it is only one part of what should be a multi-pronged approach to solving the issues in salmon fisheries… Pinniped reduction has to be part of the equation. We need habitat restoration and investments in hatcheries.”

The union, along with other commercial salmon harvesters, had proposed their own specific recommendations, addressing all of these aspects as well as the relationship with First Nations fishers in May 2021 in: The Report on the Future of B.C. Commercial Salmon Fishing . As with the growing consensus amongst coal and fossil fuel workers, the UFAWU-Unifor report acknowledges the crisis and the need for change, stating: “The regular commercial salmon fishery is clearly in a state of crisis. This is a result of DFO policies and recent low salmon productivity, in part driven by higher predation and climate change, that have reduced harvests in regular commercial fisheries to the point where no one can survive.” (The report has strong criticism for the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans on many fronts). Regarding the kind of licence retirement program that the government has announced, the report states: “This program must offer commercial salmon harvesters the ability to exit the industry with dignity and grace. For the future, it recommends all commercial salmon licences be held by harvesters or First Nations for active participation. A commercial salmon licence bank where licences from a buyout can be held will also allow for future re-entry into the industry. Licences must not be allowed to become investment paper or security for production for processors.” Unlike the federal DFO, the union is not seeking to shrink the industry, and argues that their proposals will allow for a viable and profitable future. The subtitle of their report reflects this optimism:  An Active Fishermen’s Guide to a Viable, Vibrant, and Sustainable Commercial Fishery. To date, the government has not responded to the union’s proposals.

Fishing communities in Costa Rica oppose the 30×30 conservation target

By Chris Lang - REDD Monitor, June 15, 2021

Costa Rica is currently the co-chair of the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, together with France and the UK. A central goal of the Coalition is to protect at least 30% of the world’s land and seas by 2030. This 30×30 target is included in the draft of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, that will be negotiated at the next Conference of Parties of the Convention on Biodiversity, planned to be held in China in October 2021.

The High Ambition Coalition hopes to push the 30×30 target at the UNFCCC COP26 meeting in Glasgow in November 2021, as well as the CBD COP15 meeting in China.

The Coalition promotes the 30×30 target as aiming “to halt the accelerating loss of species, and protect vital ecosystems that are the source of our economic security”. But there is a serious danger that the 30×30 target will result in the biggest land grab the world has ever seen.

A recent Declaration from the Grupo de las Gentes del Mar in Costa Rica highlights this danger. The Declaration puts the 30×30 target in the context of the livelihoods of fishing communities in Costa Rica, and in the context of the history of dispossession, displacements, violations of human rights and violence associated with the creation of protected areas.

The declaration is available here with a full list of signatories.

The Blue New Deal: Making a Living on a Living Ocean

By Jeremy Brecher - Labor Network For Sustainability, May 5, 2021

Last year Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren called for “A Blue New Deal for our Oceans.” Since then, there have been many additional proposals for a Blue New Deal–including measures that President Joe Biden could implement by executive order. Here’s the backstory of the Blue New Deal. Not surprisingly, it was a worker who inspired the idea.

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