According to EJF, this is a significant step forward, as together these five companies represent the vast majority of grocery sales in the UK. In addition, the organization believes that supermarkets are a key part of ensuring that seafood is caught legally, ethically and sustainably.

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The charter contains detailed recommendations retailers can use with suppliers to ensure no boat related to illegal or unethical practices taints their supply chain. Vital in this effort is the use of traceability systems that enable 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.

Moreover, the charter calls supermarkets to support the adoption of EJF’s ten principles for global transparency in the fishing industry:

  1. Give all vessels a unique number: Like cars number plates, but these would stay with vessels from shipyard to scrapyard, regardless of name or flag changes, and should be kept in a global record of fishing vessels.
  2. Make vessel tracking data public: This will mean neighbouring countries, non-governmental organisations and others can all help with surveillance.
  3. Publish lists of fishing licences and authorisations: Who’s allowed to fish where? Combined with vessel tracking data this means anyone can monitor and raise the alarm about illegal fishing.
  4. Publish punishments handed out for fisheries crimes: The arrests and sanctions imposed for illegal fishing or human rights abuse on fishing vessels should be public, so offenders can be identified.
  5. Ban transferring fish between boats at sea – unless carefully monitored: This practice enables unscrupulous companies to keep workers at sea, unpaid, for months or years. It also makes the source of the fish, once landed, very difficult to trace.
  6. Set up a digital database of vessel information: Storing information on fishing vessel registration, licenses, catch and crew is vital, and could eventually enable catches to be certified as fished legally and ethically.
  7. Stop the use of flags of convenience for fishing vessels: Some countries let any vessel fly their flags for a fee – but then don’t properly monitor them, which allows the owners of illegally fishing vessels to remain unaccountable.
  8. Publish details of the true owners of each vessel – who takes home the profit?: False front companies are often used so that the true beneficiaries of illegal fishing are safe from prosecution.
  9. Punish anyone involved in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing: Countries must ensure that none of their citizens support, engage in or profit from illegal fishing, no matter where they are, or which flag they are flying.
  10. Adopt international measures that set clear standards for fishing vessels and the trade in fisheries products: These include the Port State Measures Agreement, the Work in Fishing Convention and the Cape Town Agreement.

EJF’s Executive Director Steve Trent, stated:

It’s very heartening to see so many major retailers sign the Charter for Transparency. 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