Imported Shrimp May Use Human Trafficking

Shrimp consumed in the United States may have been produced using human trafficking according to the U.S. Department of Labor and human rights organizations. Human trafficking is a crime that exploits women, children and men for numerous purposes including forced labor and sex. Documented examples of human trafficking in the shrimp supply chain include individuals held at sea to catch fish used in shrimp meal and women and children forced to peel shrimp by hand. On July 30, the Southern Shrimp Alliance is promoting resources to help shrimp purchasers avoid sourcing from supply chains that use forced labor, child labor, and forced child labor as part of World Day Against Trafficking in Persons.

Resources on labor abuses and shrimp

The Southern Shrimp Alliance compiled and released in May 2019 government and third-party resources to enhance the ability of consumers, suppliers, restaurants, and retailers to evaluate the risk of purchasing shrimp from supply chains that use slave, forced, or child labor. As these data show, forced labor in shrimp production is limited to a small number of countries, but these problem countries supply significant volumes of shrimp to the U.S. market.

“Consumers play a large role in stopping human trafficking. We can use the Sweat & Toil app developed by the Department of Labor when making purchasing decisions on a variety of products, including shrimp, to avoid supporting businesses that profit from these inhumane practices,” stated John Williams, the executive director of the Southern Shrimp Alliance. “Many times, the cheapest product costs a lot more than consumers know.”

Sweat & Toil: Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking Around the World is a comprehensive resource developed by U.S. Department of Labor documenting child labor and forced labor worldwide. This app fits the information of the International Labor Affairs Bureau’s three flagship reports into one easy to use app.

Advocating for enforcement of labor laws

In addition to helping shrimp purchasers avoid shrimp produced through slave or child labor, the Southern Shrimp Alliance advocates for meaningful enforcement of U.S. laws designed to prevent this shrimp from entering the U.S. market.

“U.S. laws against grotesque labor abuses need to be enforced,” explains Williams. “Purchasers need a reason to think twice about going after the lowest prices available in the marketplace, especially when the freedoms of vulnerable people are on the line.”

U.S. law prohibits the importation of goods produced in whole or in part by slave, forced, or child labor. In 2016, Congress closed a loophole preventing this prohibition from being applied to most imported goods, including shrimp. Nevertheless, even after closing the loophole, enforcement of the prohibition by U.S. Customs and Border Protection continues to be weak.

U.S. law additionally prohibits the importation of seafood harvested through Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing. The Southern Shrimp Alliance continues to advocate for NOAA to administer this law so as to include forced labor in its implementation of the definition of IUU Fishing. The Seafood Import Monitoring Program, which took effect in January 2019, gives the agency the tools necessary to trace the origin of imported shrimp through its supply chain to effectively prevent shrimp (and other seafood) produced by users of forced, child, or slave labor from entering the U.S. market.

About the Day

In 2013, the General Assembly of the United Nations designated July 30th as World Day Against Trafficking in Persons to raise awareness of the situation of victims of human trafficking and promote and protect their rights.

The 2019 World Day is focused on highlighting the importance of Government action in the interest of victims of trafficking. The Southern Shrimp Alliance joins the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime to encourage everyone to take action to prevent this heinous crime, both through advocacy and informed purchasing practices. Learn more at http://www.un.org/en/events/humantrafficking/index.shtml

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