SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY PROGRAM & FISHERIES IMPROVEMENT PROJECT
October 28, 2020
2020 has been a challenging time for the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to ensure that its sustainability programs are functioning effectively, FCF has closely monitored the situation and adapted its business approach to prevent any supply chain disruptions. This includes implementing new health and safety policies for all its employees to respond to the virus outbreak as well as abiding by port control measures to ensure that crew members onboard the supplying vessels are safe from the virus. As a global tuna industry leader, FCF understands its responsibility to continue to provide its customers with a safe and environmentally and socially responsible supply chain. FCF’s sustainability programs have made significant progress despite the global pandemic. In this report FCF presents the results of FCF’s environmental and social responsibility programs during the first half of 2020. FCF’s representatives completed a trip to Fiji to undertake two major tasks: 1 Advance FCF and Bumble Bee Seafoods’ Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) Yellowfin and Albacore Longline Fishery Improvement Project (FIP) through a workshop for companies with vessels in the FIP as well as initial development of a data collection plan, and Implementing first Stage of FCF Social Responsibility Program- Social auditing. Social auditing for mapping industrial social issues witnessed by MRAG Asia Pacific representatives to ensure a robust Social Responsibility Program development.
Training vessel owners on best practices in Fiji
Fiji FIP workshop was delivered in collaboration with multiple key stakeholders, including Bumble Bee Seafoods, the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF), AZTI and the FIP facilitator – Ocean Outcomes. On 24-25 February 2020, FCF and FIP partners held a workshop in Fiji to train 12 companies participating in the FIP; the work was focused on how operations could reduce interactions with non-target and protected species and how to handle the species if they are accidentally brought to the surface. The training included a review of the regional rules by the international body, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), that covers the common non-target bycatch and endangered, protected and threatened species encountered in standard longline operations, notably sea turtles, sharks, rays and seabirds. Workshop topics of training covered:
- Species identification and safe handling and release measures – using pictures and safe release guidelines to assist captains and crew members to immediately identify and safely release unintended bycatch; and
- Marine Resources Assessment Group (MRAG) is a consulting firm specialized in natural resources assessment and management.
- Foundation AZTI is a Spanish technological research center for marine and food innovation that partners with ISSF on scientific projectsand skippers’ workshops.
- Fishing methods and gear modification – training skippers on basic gear modifications and fishing techniques that can effectively reduce the bycatch of certain species, particularly sea turtles. These modifications include:
- Use of wide circle hooks – circle hooks can reduce the capture of sea turtle and sharks, with a reduced chance of being deeply hooked, and greater probability of allowing safe de-hooking.
- Setting hooks deeper – using longer drop lines and setting the hooks deeper avoids interactions with shallow water and surface bycatch species.
- Use of fin- fish bait (rather than squid) – sea turtles tend
to swallow squid bait in one gulp, which increase risks of
being hooked – using fish bait reduces the frequency of
deep hooking incidents.
- Use of tori lines, night setting, line weighting and hookpods–these measures reduce seabird bycatch by deterring birds from interacting with fishing lines and hooks while being set.
The training is an important step towards environmental sustainability. An understanding of these gear modification techniques, RFMO and MSC regulations, and safe handling and release measures will help FIP-participating vessels deliver on their commitment to adopt improvements in fishing operations. These improvements will help to reduce bycatch and ultimately minimize the impact of the fishery on the pelagic ecosystem as the fishery works towards the Marine Stewardship Council standard.
FCF Social Audits:
In 2019, FCF conducted its first social audits focusing on longline vessels in Mauritius. In 2020, FCF extended its social audit program to cover Fiji, a major hub for longline vessels in the western Pacific targeting albacore tuna. The scope of the FCF social audit process covers both office audits, to examine each company’s management systems to support social responsibility, as well as vessel audits, to assess implementation of FCF’s social requirements in practice. Vessel audits also involve interviews with a sampling of crew members to identify the recruitment process, and living and working conditions on board.
A selection of FCF social audits performed in Fiji were observed by an independent third party verifier, MRAG Asia Pacific, as the company’s initial step to work towards third party verification and enhance the credibility of FCF’s rigorous program via a management system- based approach.
The majority of Western Pacific longline fleets in the FCF Social Audit Program have branch offices in Fiji, which allowed the FCF audit team to conduct audits of both offices and vessels in one trip. 80% of Fijian vessel owners under the Social Audit Program were audited with thorough assessment against audit procedures including recruitment process review, officer interviews and contract verification. The FCF audit team has also achieved 10% vessel audit coverage. FCF continues to implement its auditing program in line with the aim of minimum
30% office audits and 20% vessel audits annually. (Noting this may be influenced by ongoing COVID-19 related travel restrictions).
The audit objective is to verify companies’ internal management system, record keeping capacity, workplace conditions and treatment of crew members. The audited fleet were able to demonstrate compliance with the majority of the social criteria, for example no underage workers were identified; sufficient Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) was in place for all crew members, and conducting regular inspections to ensure the health and safety of the vessels.
Some opportunities for improvement were identified, such as incomplete procedures and records, and the standards employed by the recruitment process. FCF is continuously communicating with vessel companies to assure that all relevant gaps can be filled via corrective action plans, and ultimately achieve full compliance over time. At the same time, FCF is seeking opportunities to engage with different stakeholders to improve overall social issues.
Throughout the current pandemic period (starting in March), FCF has remained committed to ensuring the health and safety of FCF’s employees and the crew onboard the fishing vessels within its supply chain. As part of the company’s commitment, it has continued to implement its social audit program as well as all related initiatives. As strict travel restrictions are implemented worldwide, the FCF internal audit team has been using available tool and resources to carry out FCF sustainability and social programs, looking for trained and qualified auditors locally, and using digital platforms to perform audits remotely and maintaining appropriate control over the implementation of all required monitoring activities. FCF will continue its efforts to increase its social audit program coverage, implement appropriate improvement action plans, as well as raise awareness to more suppliers throughout the remaining of 2020 and beyond.