The recent accusations of human rights violations in pre-processing facilities involved in the seafood sector in Thailand have highlighted the serious challenges faced by seafood importers in the U.S. And while they have helped bring this issue to light for many consumers and retailers alike, National Fish has been engaged on this issue for years with the Thai governments, the U.S. State Department, the Thai Frozen Food Association (TFFA), the International Labour Organization (ILO), and the NGO community to establish and expand social responsibility programs.
Jeff Sedacca, President, Shrimp Division, National Fish & Seafood, said: “Our commitment to social responsibility has been long-standing because it is the right way to do business. Since these issues came to light several years ago, we have not bought wild caught fish or shrimp in Thailand. And we will not until we are satisfied that we can develop an ethically responsible supply chain.”
In 2010 National Fish was the first importer to ban the use of shrimp peeling houses located outside the processing plants since such houses are not included in plant audits, allowing for the potential use of illegal and underage labor.
All shrimp processed for and imported by National Fish have remained in the care, custody and control of the audited processor through the entire production process, and the company requires suppliers to provide it with verifiable documentation on responsible farming practices and labor conditions.
National Fish has been a leading force in implementation of farm and plant certification through the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) certification scheme, which contains a social responsibility component benchmarked against the international Global Social Compliance Programme. Since its inception, National Fish has hosted hundreds of hours of training seminars throughout Southeast Asia to teach farmers and processors to meet the internationally recognized certification requirements.
“We closely monitor social compliance at these facilities and require regular unannounced ethical sourcing audits,” continued Mr Sedacca.
James Baros, Aquaculture & Sustainability Manager, National Fish & Seafood added: “Earlier this year, we helped our Thai supplier to build a feed mill to supply farms contracted for National Fish & Seafood production. This undertaking successfully further secured our supply chain, giving us increased control over all inputs ensuring legality and fair labor practices of our fishmeal suppliers and affiliated fishing vessels.”
All purchases are accompanied by the Marine Catch Purchasing Document, which demonstrates traceability, and sources include both IFFO-certified (International Fishmeal and Fish Oil Organisation) Peruvian fishmeal and tuna by-product fishmeal.
Mr Baros led National Fish & Seafood in joining the Thai Shrimp Sustainable Supply Chain Task Force (Task Force) in 2015, formed to address illegal, unreported and unregulated fisheries and labor abuse in Thai shrimp supply chains. Comprised of key industry stakeholders drawn from seafood processing, importers, and retail businesses, the Task Force is working to develop robust, actionable solutions focused on three objectives:
1) Implement Track & Trace systems with international verification
2) Drive Thai Port Codes of Conduct with international recognition
3) Drive Fishery Improvement Projects – Gulf of Thailand and Andaman Sea
In addition, National Fish has begun implementing advanced traceability software, Farmforce and SourceTrace, at the farm level to tap into the benefits of a cloud-based platform so farmers, processors, importers and buyers can all benefit from a transparent, traceable supply chain ensuring social and environmental compliance with international standards.
National Fish & Seafood continues to demonstrate a growing commitment to a responsibly managed and traceable seafood supply, throughout Thailand and the rest of the world.
Mr Sedacca concluded: “We will continue our work to engage farmers, feed mills, hatcheries, processors, NGOs, and local government agencies, to ensure full transparency and social welfare compliance through each step of the production cycle and provide a guarantee of quality and sustainability to our customers.”