In 2013, Humanity United partnered with the International Labor Rights Forum to create the Thai Seafood Working Group, an internationally recognized network of nearly 60 human rights, labor, and environmental organizations from more than a dozen countries. The group brings together leading minds and subject experts working from different angles in the search for solutions to the related problems of illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing and labor exploitation in the international seafood trade.
The Working Group has produced significant outcomes in its four years, including:
- Coordinated successful international effort that stopped the Thai government from pursuing a plan to use prison labor on fishing vessels. Efforts started with a group sign-on letter and culminated in an international media campaign that was covered in BBC World Service, USA Today, Fox News and Time.
- Successful intervention with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), the largest seafood certification label, to re-evaluate its effort to add social standards to its environmental certification scheme that would consist of nothing more than a voluntary declaration that a fishery was “not associated” with forced and child labor.
- Led a letter sign-on effort that garnered 110 sign-ons from prominent organizations around the globe in support of human rights activist Andy Hall as he was fighting criminal defamation charges for documenting labor exploitation at a pineapple export factory.
The impetus for the Working Group is an understanding that fishing practices that harm the environment are often integrally linked to labor exploitation. Environmental groups that have spent decades campaigning for practices that protect marine environments have knowledge that can support campaigns for just working conditions and vice versa. It is only by working together, with environmental and labor organizations providing their unique expertise, that comprehensive solutions can be developed that will fundamentally change the seafood sector toward more sustainable practices.