Greenpeace is calling out US tuna giant Bumble Bee Seafood and its Taiwanese owner over allegations of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and human rights abuses in the company's tuna supply chain.
A new investigative report by Greenpeace East Asia claims that an examination of Bumble Bee's traceability system -- called "Trace My Catch" -- showed more than 10 percent of the 119 Taiwanese-flagged or owned vessels linked to the supply had violated Taiwanese fishery regulations and were on the Taiwan Fisheries Agency's illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) list.
After collecting hundreds of cans from US supermarkets, Greenpeace East Asia and Greenpeace US entered 73 distinct can codes into Bumble Bee’s Trace My Catch system, which allows consumers to track the source of its tuna products.
The data was then cross-checked with the Taiwan Fisheries Agency and Global Fishing Watch, an open-access tool that analyses global fishing activity.
In addition to vessels listed on the IUU list, fishermen working aboard six of the vessels that supplied Bumble Bee and Taiwanese parent company FCF reported treatment that indicated forced labor, said Greenpeace.
Taiwanese-owned vessel Da Wang -- whose crew was indicted on charges related to forced labor and human trafficking -- has been used to supply Bumble Bee, Greenpeace claims, “raising concerns that seafood tainted with forced labor has already been sold in the US market.”
Greenpeace East Asia also interviewed 27 migrant fishermen and found all reported experiencing, or observing, at least one forced labor indicator as defined by the UN’s International Labour Organization (ILO).
Greenpeace further alleges information provided by the consumer brand about its products is incomplete and, in some cases, incorrect.
Mallika Talwar, senior oceans campaigner at Greenpeace US, said the group was "not surprised at the high level of disparity between what Bumble Bee tells US consumers and what was uncovered in this investigation."
Greenpeace is calling on the the US Customs and Border Protection agency to block imports of FCF products.
Greenpeace said FCF, Bumble Bee, and owners of 24 Taiwanese-related vessels were all given the opportunity to comment for the report.
While FCF, Bumble Bee, and seven vessel owners did not respond, other vessel owners said they were not able to verify or deny all allegations.
In a statement sent to IntraFish, Bumble Bee said it is "carefully reviewing allegations raised in regard to our supply chain."
The company said it and parent company FCF continue to work with others in the industry to reduce IUU fishing across the globe and to make ongoing progress toward the responsible recruitment and treatment of all workers.
"While we believe the Greenpeace East Asia report contains several inaccuracies, we also believe that more progress can be made in ensuring responsible labor practices are followed on tuna vessels," the company said.
In June, Bumble Bee CEO Jan Tharp left the group after 12 years. She was replaced by Jerry Chou, the chairman of the Bumble Bee Seafood Company.
Tharp led Bumble Bee through a lengthy bankruptcy and subsequent sale of assets to an affiliate of long-time partner, FCF Fishery, a worldwide producer and distributor of seafood products. FCF acquired the company’s North American assets for $928 million (€841.9 million) in 2020.