M&S + Waitrose & Partners sign EJF Charter for Transparency to end illegal fishing and slavery at sea
May 16, 2019

M&S + Waitrose & Partners sign EJF Charter for Transparency to end illegal fishing and slavery at sea

By EJF Staff

Marks & Spencer and Waitrose & Partners have become the latest major retailers to sign the Environmental Justice Foundation’s Charter for Transparency. They join the Co-op, Sainsbury’s and Tesco in making a commitment to ensure their seafood supply chains are free from illegal fishing and human rights abuse. This is a significant and unifying step forward, says EJF: together these five companies represent the vast majority of grocery sales in the UK.

The lack of transparency in the global seafood industry means that illegal fishing is rife, costing the global economy an estimated US$10 - 23.5 billion every year.

As fish stocks fall, so does income from the vessels. To scrape a profit, some companies exploit workers, engaging in violent human rights abuses and employing forced, bonded and slave labour. EJF has documented shocking abuse aboard fishing vessels across the world – from slavery to murder – all facilitated by the lack of transparency.

Supermarkets are a vital part of ensuring that the seafood we eat was caught legally, ethically and sustainably, says EJF.

The charter includes detailed recommendations retailers can use with suppliers to make sure no boat associated with illegal or unethical practices taints their supply chain.

Central to this is the use of traceability systems that allow fish to be tracked from net to plate, accompanied by necessary evidence showing it was caught legally and ethically. These should be backed up by third party audits, focused on those areas of the supply chain with the highest risks.

The charter recommends a code of practice that retailers can use with suppliers that explains measures they can put in place to make sure no boat associated with illegal or unethical practices taints their supply chain.

In addition, supermarkets have a powerful voice that they can use to call on governments to make critical reforms. The charter calls on them to support the adoption of EJF’s ten principles for global transparency in the fishing industry.

These simple, low-cost measures – which include publishing license lists and giving vessels unique numbers – are well within the reach of any country and can play a pivotal role in the battle against illegal fishing and human rights abuse in the sector.

“It’s very heartening to see so many major retailers sign the Charter for Transparency,” says EJF’s Executive Director Steve Trent. “It will give them the tools to develop effective risk mitigation policies and processes in place across the entire supply chain, backed by truly independent verification. In addition, supermarkets have real power to encourage governments across the world to implement the few basic measures that are vital to eradicating illegal fishing and human rights abuses in fisheries. They are also, of course, doing what consumers want and deserve.”

Waitrose & Partners’ Ethical Trade Manager Sam Ludlow Taylor said: “We have been working on responsible seafood sourcing for over 20 years, only sourcing fish from fisheries and farmed aquaculture operations that are responsibly managed and fully traceable. Our leading approach to responsible fishing extends to the welfare conditions of all workers in our supply chain as their well-being is equally important to us. By signing this charter, further safeguarding measures will be implemented to ensure all workers are operating within a safe and ethical environment, as well as practising the high standards both we and our customers expect.”

Mike Mitchell, Fisheries Specialist at M&S, said: “At M&S, we’re committed to sourcing all our fish responsibly and we’re proud to lead the sector on transparency with our interactive supplier map, which shows where every type of fish or seafood we sell is caught or farmed. We believe collaborating with EJF and the wider industry to prevent illegal fishing will enable us to create meaningful and lasting change in seafood.”


Notes for editors

Read EJF’s report: Out of the shadows: Improving transparency in global fisheries

Watch EJF’s film on transparency: Out of the shadows

Key facts:

  • Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing presents a grave threat to the world’s fish stocks, which are already on the brink of collapse. A third of fish stocks are being exploited at unsustainable levels, with a further 60% of fisheries on the edge, fished at maximally sustainable levels.
  • Recognised worldwide as a major threat to the future of our oceans, combatting illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is a target of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 14 (Life Below Water).

The Environmental Justice Foundation is an international non-governmental organisation working to protect the environment and defend human rights. EJF is a charity registered in England and Wales (1088128).


Daisy Brickhill - EJF Press & Communications Officer

Tel: 07871946911