SEA Alliance Statement – Response to serious allegations featured in the Financial Times Magazine, and wider concerns relating to worker welfare in the UK fishing sector.
Statement from the SEA Alliance to support responses to the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC):
Retailers and seafood businesses are collaborating through the Seafood Ethics Action Alliance (SEA Alliance) to respond to the recent serious allegations featured in the FT Magazine, and wider concerns relating to worker welfare in the UK fishing sector. In relation to the issues raised in the FT Magazine specifically, we are working to ensure that a robust independent investigation into the allegations is completed as a matter of urgency, and we are in touch with fishing sector representatives in Kilkeel regarding the methodology and timeline for this. The SEA Alliance will be carefully reviewing the findings as soon as they are available, and will support the sector to implement any improvement actions required.
Concerns regarding the treatment of migrant fishers working in the UK fishing industry have been highlighted for some time. In May 2022, the University of Nottingham published “Letting exploitation off the hook? Evidencing labour abuses in UK fishing” and the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) published the briefing “A one way ticket to labour exploitation”. Both publications alleged serious issues of exploitation and inadequate legal protections for migrant fishers, and the SEA Alliance responded publicly to these reports at the time they were released (please see our response here: SEA Alliance Statement - conditions in UK fishing - SEAA - The Seafood Ethics Action Alliance).
Further to these serious issues, the SEA Alliance convened a Human Rights Allegation Engagement Group, which has resulted in the creation of an action plan specifically focused on driving improvements in working standards and recruitment practices in UK fishing. The action plan, which is currently being implemented, includes actions relating to supply chain mapping, advocacy to Government, and working with welfare organisations to provide direct support to fishers. We collaborated with a number of civil society and industry stakeholders to develop this action plan, and we meet regularly to review its implementation.
In the context of the action plan, we are now providing support to ITF and Stella Maris to directly engage foreign fishers across the UK to ensure they are aware of their rights and are able to access support where they need it. In addition, one of our member companies has led the creation of a series of information films for foreign crew entering the UK fishing sector, which are being translated into a number of different languages, and which will be launched shortly. The SEA Alliance is also providing support to an industry-led initiative in Northern Ireland seeking to drive up safety standards through vessel assessments and capacity building for vessel owners.
Furthermore, we are currently working closely with civil society organisations and fishing sector organisations to explore the feasibility of a Worker Driven Social Responsibility (WSR) pilot in the Scottish fishing sector, building on the learnings from initiatives that have successfully improved working conditions in other sectors and geographies.
Notwithstanding the work outlined above, we recognise that there is more that can be done, and we are determined to use our collective and individual influence to support action to address the serious issues faced by migrant fishers working in the UK fishing sector. We will continue to update on the actions we are taking.