By Gina-Marie Cheeseman — Mars and Nestlé recently announced that they will take steps to ensure their pet food supply chains are free of illegally caught seafood and human rights abuses. Nestlé is committed to a full ban on transshipment at sea in its supply chains. Mars committed to suspending the use of transshipped products in its supply chains if its suppliers do not address the illegal fishing and human rights issues. Nestlé and Mars are the largest pet food companies in the world.
Transshipment is a way that companies move fish from one boat to another. It allows them to remain at sea for longer periods to catch illegal seafood, evade regulations and keep workers captive. Transshipment also allows illegal fishing boats to unload what they illegally caught into supply chains, out of sight of port authorities. An estimated 40 percent of transshipments happened on the high seas in 2015, outside of the jurisdiction of national authorities. Transshipment at sea has also been linked to drug and weapons smuggling and wildlife trafficking.
“The announcements by Mars and Nestlé to address at sea transshipment mark an important turning point in the effort to eradicate human rights abuse from seafood supply chains,” Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner Graham Forbes told said. “The move by these two pet food giants sends a clear signal to Thai Union and the broader seafood industry that buyers will no longer accept the risks associated with this murky practice.”
Greenpeace had pressured Mars to ensure its seafood supply chains were free of human rights abuses by launching a campaign in 2016, Cats vs. Bad Tuna. A Greenpeace report titled "Turn the Tide" found that there is a high risk of seafood entering the supply chains that is illegally caught or the result of human rights abuses. Thailand is the fourth largest seafood exporter in the world. Greenpeace conducted a year-long investigation into the Thai fishing industry and detailed transshipments of what it deemed Thailand’s “rogue ghost fleets” before new regulations went into effect.
From 2012 to 2016, refrigerated cargo vessels commonly called reefers participated in over 5,000 likely transshipments where they used a fishing vessel broadcasting an Automatic Identification System (AIS) signal, according to a report by Global Fishing Watch. There were over 86,000 potential transshipments by reefers, but lacked corresponding AIS signals.
A 2015 investigation by the New York Times found human rights abuses abound in the Thai fishing industry. One of the reasons for the human rights abuses is the shortage of fishers in the South China Sea. So, migrants fill the shortage and many are trafficked and forced to work on fishing vessels. They are often beaten for doing the slightest thing wrong.