Fish stacked on top of one another

Verité is currently collaborating with Tetra Tech ARD on the USAID Oceans and Fisheries Partnership (USAID Oceans), a program designed to combat illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing and protect marine biodiversity in the Asia-Pacific region. In addition to protecting marine biodiversity and enhancing sustainability, the program’s focus on related human welfare issues, such as gender equality and labor rights, addresses the multi-faceted and interrelated nature of social and environmental challenges. USAID Oceans will work with regional partners to develop a catch documentation and traceability (CDT) system that will enable at-risk species to be tracked from “bait to plate,” from point of catch to market entry. The CDT system will provide a platform to collect and analyze environmental and economic data to improve fisheries’ management and enhance the health and resilience of Southeast Asia’s marine eco-systems. Verité is conducting field assessments of labor conditions in pilot fisheries and providing technical assistance to the project on approaches on integrating relevant labor data into the CDT system.

Over years of research and work in the fishing sector, Verité has clearly seen that human welfare is directly tied to biodiversity and environmental protection, and that the two must be addressed in tandem. As decreased fishery resources push fishing vessels further off-shore, and sometimes into illegal fishing activities, fishing jobs become more isolated, dangerous and therefore undesirable to workers with other livelihood options. Financial pressures – including high fuel costs, longer time at sea and smaller catches – incentivize the use of exploited labor, including, in some cases, workers who have been trafficked. With limited governance and inconsistent enforcement, IUU fishing practices can perpetuate the challenges of unethical and illegal labor practices. A lack of access to information on rights and grievance mechanisms further compounds worker vulnerabilities, a challenge that the CDT system aims to address in bridging supply chain regulation and communication gaps. The USAID Oceans’ supported CDT system will help ensure fisheries’ resources are legally caught and properly labeled, decreasing the financial and governance factors that incentivize and enable IUU fishing and associated labor abuses.

The Oceans and Fisheries Partnership is a USAID-funded program that works in collaboration with the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) and the Coral Triangle Initiative for Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF).

For more information, please contact Allison Arbib.

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