Fair Trade CertifiedTM tuna, scallops, and salmon can all be found at Hy-Vee stores. To help explain what Fair Trade certification means, we asked Julie Kuchepatov, Seafood Program Director at Fair Trade USA, to share her thoughts on the importance of responsibly sourced seafood.
- What is Fair Trade?
Fair Trade is all about taking care of people and our planet. When you purchase products with the Fair Trade Certified™ logo, you’re not only getting a high-quality product, you’re supporting a system in which farmers, workers, and fishermen are fairly compensated, fragile ecosystems are protected, and communities are empowered to build sustainable businesses. It’s a win-win.
There are two important mechanisms that bring Fair Trade to life. The first is the Fair Trade Standard. To earn certification, each fishery must meet a set of rigorous, independently audited criteria that work to protect fundamental human rights of fishermen, enable transparent supply chains and protect the environment. The second important thing to remember is the Community Development Premium. For every pound of certified seafood sold, fishermen earn an additional amount of money that is earmarked for critical community projects, as identified by the fishermen themselves. This allows fishing communities to invest in the causes that matter the most to them, like education and health care.
- What products does Fair Trade USA certify?
Fair Trade USA certifies more than 30 different categories, from tea, coconut and spices to grain, sugar, produce and even apparel and home goods. You can now find Fair Trade Certified™ products in nearly every aisle of the grocery store.
- Why does Fair Trade matter so much in seafood?
Recent investigations have exposed a number of environmental and social abuses in the seafood industry. Roughly 30% of the world’s fisheries are overfished, according to FAO. If unchecked, many varieties of seafood we’ve come to know and love may go extinct. Human trafficking and forced labor are also major issues in parts of the industry. An increasing number of reports show that individuals, particularly in Southeast Asia, are lured onto fishing vessels with promises of steady jobs and higher pay, only to find themselves working around the clock in dangerous conditions, often without pay. Some have even lost their lives.
Fair Trade USA’s Seafood Program is really the first of its kind to address both social and environmental challenges in the seafood sector. Standards for marine resources ensure that fisheries are managed legally and responsibly, preventing further overfishing. At the same time, social and human rights standards prohibit forced labor and empower fishermen with better working conditions, improved terms of trade, and additional income to invest in their businesses and communities.
Fair Trade Community Development Premiums can also help foster collaboration among previously isolated groups of fishermen. Premiums encourage fishermen to work together to identify and execute projects like improvements to health clinics or community centers. This cultivates a sense of community that in turn makes fishermen less vulnerable to exploitation by outside parties.
The Fair Trade seafood Hy-Vee buys comes from small villages in Indonesia and traditional fishing communities in the United States, specifically Alaska and the East Coast. Fishermen and community members have used Fair Trade Premiums for safety improvements at fishing docks, education scholarships, uniforms, and school supplies for local children, renovations to community centers, and environmental research projects that help protect the long-term health of the fishery.
- What does Fair Trade aim to do in fishing communities?
The goal of the Fair Trade Seafood Program is to build more resilient livelihoods in fishing communities. It’s about improved working conditions and wages for fishermen, so they can better care for themselves and their families. It’s also about helping fishermen gain greater access to capital in the form of Community Development Premiums, as investments made with this extra income can improve community welfare.
Finally, Fair Trade focuses on environmental stewardship in fishing communities. Our NGO partners and field coordinators on the ground work with fishermen to improve their fishing practices and preserve marine ecosystems, ensuring that fishing remains a viable profession for generations to come.
- What do you want shoppers to know when they see the Fair Trade Certified™ label?
Every dollar we spend is a vote for the kind of world we want to live in. When you purchase Fair Trade Certified™ seafood, you’re voting for sustainable livelihoods, thriving fishing communities, and healthy marine populations. You’re voting for safe working conditions, equal rights for women, and prohibitions of both slavery and child labor. Most people want to make a positive difference in the world, and with Fair Trade it’s easy. Fair Trade Certified™ seafood empowers shoppers to turn the tides for fishermen, one purchase at a time.