Today was the opening day of the InfoFish World Tuna Conference. The three-day conference brings together politicians, industry leaders, and other stakeholders.
We are delighted to be able to attend the conference, with special thanks to Earth Island for sponsoring our attendance.
The focus of the conference is sustainable growth.
Ministers from Ecuador, Fiji, Maldives, and Papua New Guinea opened the conference, all speaking of the need for sustainability in the fishing sector. There is a clear understanding that fish stocks are in peril, and unless sustainable methods and standards are employed, certain fish are on a pathway to extinction.
But it's important that sustainability includes human rights.
The conference was told that as fish stocks decrease and as fishers reduce their catches to ensure the survival of species, the incidence of illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing increases. And where there is IUU fishing, there are human rights abuses. Because IUU fishing takes place in the shadows, it is easy for human rights abuses to go hand in hand with the environmental crimes being committed.
Most people would find it repugnant to know that the fish they eat comes from supply chains that include slavery or human trafficking. But this is a reality in some cases.
Thankfully the issue of human rights is being addressed by some organisations. The keynote address from Juan Corrales, CEO of Tri Marine International, included repeated references to human rights and the importance of these, which was heartening and shows just how far the dialogue on this issue has come in recent years.
The Vice President of the Thai Tuna Industry Association, Narin Niruttinanon, also spoke of his organisation's work to promote human rights in the Thai fishing industry. The US State Department recently upgraded Thailand in its latest Trafficking in Persons report following on from a number of years of concerted effort from Thai authorities and companies.
As the conference delegates spend the next two days developing ways to deliver sustainable growth, we must not lose sight of the human rights implications of the fishing sector, and this growth must be built on positive human and labour rights practices.
As the Maldives Minister for Fisheries, Dr Hussain Rasheed, said in his address "it's time to get our act together".
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