The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) has completed a full review of their records since inception for the response and submission to Human Rights at Sea (HRAS) and its voluntary seafood certifications Questionnaire.
In a demonstration of transparency and accountability, ASC is the first organisation to provide detailed answers to the six core questions from HRAS. Other certification bodies are in the process of responding at the time of writing.
- How many cases of reported child labour, forced or compulsory labour have been reported to your organisation under your certification since inception, how reported and by whom?
- How many cases of human rights abuse have been reported to your organisation under your certification since inception, how reported and by whom?
- What is the structure, methodology and oversight mechanism(s) for your organisation’s internal investigation, findings and remediation processes involving reported cases for i) human rights abuses, ii) labour rights abuses and specifically, iii) child labour or iv) forced or compulsory labour abuses?
- How many entities have you suspended for i) human rights abuses, ii) labour rights abuses and specifically, iii) child labour or iv) forced or compulsory labour abuses since inception?
- What are the details of the suspension, for how long was the suspension upheld, were the perpetrators identified and are these details publicly available?
- Please confirm public access and links.
- How many suspended entities have been re-certified, under what circumstances were they allowed to reapply and on what basis were they re-assessed for certification?
- How many entities have you banned for i) human rights abuses, ii) labour rights abuses and specifically, iii) child labour or iv) forced or compulsory labour abuses since inception?
- What were the details of the ban, were the perpetrators identified and are these details publicly available?
- Please confirm public access and links.
In answering, ASC the responses evidenced conformity (minor, major, critical), corrective actions and the status of each entity certified under the current schemes.
By way of example, non-conformities addressed through ASC monitoring and corrective action process included worker age verification records not being checked by local managers with young workers onsite, no labour contracts signed for temporary workers, limited or no consultations for overtime work and no evidence of worker organisation with access to unions, access to freedom of association or access to a union representative.
ASC has provided evidence of its corrective actions for all non-conformity findings.
ASC further stated: “Independent Conformity Assessment Bodies (CABs) assess if they comply with the standards. CABs can (temporarily) suspend or (permanently) withdraw a Farm certificate if it is determined that a certified entity no longer adheres to the applicable standard(s). The farms that have had their Farm certificate suspended can be found through the Find a Farm search tool by filtering on ‘Status’ and selecting ‘Suspended’.”
At the time of submission to HRAS, 6 farms are under suspension, 56 farms have had their certification withdrawn and 33 have failed CAB audits.
ASC reported that: “ASC does not ban farms, but the CAB shall not accept the application from applicants that have been successfully prosecuted in the last 36 months for any of the following situations: a) Carrying out fraudulent activities confirmed by the statutory authority. b) Use or involvement of Child labour, slavery, human trafficking or forced labour. In addition, initial audits may fail and certificates may be withdrawn.”
Third-Party Auditors and Human Rights Violations
As stated, “As ASC operates through a third-party certification process, cases of human rights abuse are not usually reported directly to ASC. Instead, they are reported to the CAB or discovered by the CAB during an audit.”
A key issue identified by HRAS across reviewed certifications is the potential weak link between certifiers and CABs and the division of responsibility to identify, report and track suspected and actual cases of human rights abuse.
Forthcoming HRAS work will look at the responsibilities and accountability of Conformity Assessment Bodies (CABs).
ASC has provided a comprehensive response to the HRAS Questionnaire 1.0. The fact that this is now publicly available and has been completed in a transparent manner examples how a certification body and standard can be managed for the benefit of workers and their products. Importantly, ASC has openly engaged with HRAS and are thanked for their willingness to work alongside civil society to provide clarity and accountability.
Related Press Links
Seafood Certification Report Data Sets Released 6 March 2023
- Human Rights at Sea Discovery Questionnaire Issued to International Fisheries and Aquaculture Certification, Standards and Ratings Bodies 26 April 2023
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Photo credit. ASC 2023.