Top Thai tuna producer signs agreement on workers’ rights


Thai Union Group, the world’s largest producer of canned tuna, signed an agreement pledging to adopt and ensure fair labor practices for its ship and fisheries workers with the World Tuna Purse Seine Organization, a body of European and Asian ship owners, as part of broader efforts by the Thai government and private sector to combat labor abuse, human trafficking and make the fishing industry more sustainable.

“As the largest seafood producer in the world, Thai Union Group is committed and focused on reform efforts in the fishing industry and has taken significant steps to promote safe and legal labor,” said Darian McBain, the company’s global director of sustainable development.

Thai Union produces some of the world’s best-known brands of canned tuna and fish, including Chicken of the Sea, King Oscar and John West. Founded in 1977, the company had $3.5 billion in revenues last year and employs over 46,000 people. The seafood industry is an important sector of the Thai economy, with exports of seafood surpassing $7 billion annually, led by over $2.6 billion in exports of tuna. Tuna from Thai companies account for 40 percent of tuna sold on world markets.

McBain said that Thai Union’s agreement with the World Tuna Purse Seine Organization involves establishing a high-level framework for discussion and development of policies and rules for ethical crew employment and fair labor practices. The company said these policies should include training, social responsibilities and rules for sea-based operations in the tuna industry.

Thai Union is also working with the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation, a United States-based non-profit organization that partners seafood producers, scientists, the World Wide Fund for Nature and others. It that states its “mission is to undertake science-based initiatives for the long-term conservation and sustainable use of tuna stocks, reducing bycatch and promoting ecosystem health.”

Thai Union also said it is considering a $35 million investment in a new research and development facility to focus on animal nutrition and create added value for seafood products. It would be its second R&D facility and open in 2018.