Unbeknownst to most people, slavery and forced labor are still rampant in the supply chains of most seafood companies even today.
What’s even worse is that the various stakeholders in the industry are either not in a helping position or are simply disinterested in resolving the issue, essentially leaving hundreds of thousands of forced laborers across the world to fend for themselves.
Just to put things to perspective, there are somewhere around 300,000 forced laborers in the Thai fishing industry alone, all of them have been stripped of their basic human rights to live with dignity and the freedom of choice.
Read the latest Global Slavery Index report to learn more about the insufferable living conditions, hundreds and thousands of women, men, and children are forced to cope with.
The only silver lining is that there’s some hope in the horizon. While large-scale implementations will admittedly take a long time, embracing blockchain technology to cut down on slavery and other malpractices in Asia’s exploitative seafood industry is one of the best shot we have had in a long time.
While the idea may seem far-fetched on a casual look, some organizations like the London-based NGO Provenance have already deployed a blockchain-powered system to trace yellowfin tuna, and pole and line-caught skipjack in Indonesia. This sophisticated tracking system works all the way through the supply chain starting right from the “catch” to when it reaches the consumer.
The benefits of using blockchain technology for tracing purposes has multiple benefits.
For example, it is often seen that middlemen and traffickers confiscate ID cards, passports, and other legal documents from migrant workers in order to turn them into virtual prisoners. By using blockchain technology to issue a unique identifier to everyone, will make it easier for authorities to trace them in case something goes awry.
While large-scale reforms are required to undertake an initiative of that magnitude, it is doable. Recent progress in the realm of biometrics has made it possible to create a unique worker ID database relatively easily. India has already done it as part of the Aadhar system, albeit at a much bigger scale considering that New Delhi wants to issue a unique Aadhar ID to all of its 1.3 billion+ population.
Blockchain can also be used to offer smart contracts to all workers in every step of the supply chain. Doing so will impose a higher degree of transparency in various aspects such as wage, work-schedule, job requirements, and so on. In fact, it will be particularly beneficial for distributing wages across large workforces in a fair and efficient manner.
Additionally, blockchain technology can also make it possible to remotely monitor working conditions and physical well-being of individual workers. By using it together with wearable devices and Internet-of-Things (IoT), people at the helm of affairs can crackdown on unethical and unlawful activities such as physical torture, sexual abuse, deprivation of food an water, and unaccounted killings of migrant workers.
However, promising as it is, implementing blockchain-enabled systems in the entirety of the supply chain can be a tedious task considering that all industry stakeholders must come on board in order to make use of the new system to bring any meaningful change. Tough, but not impossible.
Feature image by Sogno