Last week, Greenpeace has launched a global campaign demanding that the world’s largest canned tuna company, Thai Union Group (TU), take urgent and far-reaching steps to eliminate labor abuse and destructive, wasteful fishing practices from its supply chains. TU owns tuna brands in major markets around the world, which have also faced mounting pressure from both consumers and concerned environmental, labor and human rights advocates to clean up their acts.
“We can no longer allow Thai Union Group and its brands around the world to sacrifice the world’s oceans and jeopardize workers at sea,” said Greenpeace USA Seafood Markets Lead Graham Forbes. “For far too long, Thai Union Group has passed the blame onto others and hidden behind ineffective policies. Until this industry giant takes responsibility and demonstrates real leadership, we will work to ensure that every single customer knows it’s not just tuna that comes with purchasing one of its tainted brands.”
In response to investigations and media reports from the New York Times and Associated Press connecting TU to human rights abuses, forced labor and destructive fishing methods, Greenpeace USA contacted the company demanding a detailed work plan and schedule for moving toward lower-impact fishing techniques and increased oversight, traceability and transparency at sea. TU and its subsidiary brands primarily catch tuna using two fishing methods, purse seining with fish aggregating devices (FADs) and longlining. These methods result in high levels of bycatch of sharks, turtles, juvenile tuna and seabirds, and are often associated with illegal fishing and violations of human and workers’ rights.
Greenpeace Southeast Asia also sent an investor brief to Thai Union Group shareholders to inform them of the risks associated with the company. Implications in human rights abuses and forced labor have brought reputational and legal risks, as three class-action lawsuits have already named TU as the supplier of fish caught via forced labor and used in Chicken of the Sea canned tuna and pet food brands in the US. The brief also warned that destructive fishing methods and overfishing threaten the company’s ability to sustain revenue into the future.
The European Union (EU) issued a yellow card to Taiwan for its failure to take action against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, which is often associated with labor abuses. Taiwanese flagged and owned tuna vessels supply Thai Union Group brands around the world. Earlier this year, the EU also issued a yellow card to Thailand for its failures on IUU fishing. As the largest seafood company in Thailand, TU’s actions could help determine whether the country is issued a red card, which would mean a complete ban of Thai fisheries products in the EU market.
In the US, the 2015 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report maintained Thailand at the bottom-ranked tier 3 level and noted the Thai fishing industry as a problem area. The annual report places countries onto one of three tiers based on the extent of their efforts to comply with "minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking." In addition to action from Thailand’s government, industry giants like TU could help avoid future sanctions by taking steps to clean up seafood supply chains.
Greenpeace has ranked Thai Union Group brands in its canned tuna rankings for major markets around the world.
To view the Greenpeace tuna rankings, click here.