Today (5th October) the Global Roundtable on Marine Ingredients is releasing a human rights impact assessment (HRIA) that it commissioned to Partner Africa in May 2022 and was conducted in Senegal and Mauritania (July and September 2022, January 2023).
With Partner Africa’s HRIA, the Global Roundtable aimed to better understand the situation on the ground, and to link the impacts in the small pelagic fish value chain in Senegal and Mauritania with the United Nations’ business and human rights framework. Ultimately, the Global Roundtable wants to catalyse positive action in those two countries.
“This study underlines the gap between the current practices in Senegal and Mauritania and the fishmeal and fish oil industry’s global standards. In Mauritania and Senegal, where fishmeal and fish oil (FMFO) production represents respectively 1.12% and 0.22% of global output[i], the Global Roundtable wants to be part of the solution to issues raised by local communities. To achieve this, collaboration between governments and private actors must be strengthened, based on a clear understanding of everyone’s responsibilities” says Árni Mathiesen, Independent Chair of the Global Roundtable. “As a first next step, the Global Roundtable is working with the FAO and others to convene a workshop on Sub-Saharan Africa. Guided by a 2022 FAO report and the findings and recommendations in the HRIA, the workshop will discuss solutions on a range of issues. The workshop is intended to gather regional stakeholders including many identified in the HRIA. The Global Roundtable is now working on adding a second phase to the study, focusing on the impacts of fishing by foreign companies and the associated trade flows”.
[i] IFFO estimates (2021)
"Partner Africa is a registered NGO with a mission to improve the working conditions and livelihoods of workers and producers in Africa, addressing all forms of exploitation. This study is inspired by the internationally recognised HRIA methodology developed by the Danish Institute of Human Rights. The findings are based on qualitative data collection methods, using a human rights lens and participatory interviewing techniques focusing on interviewees’ views, opinions, experience and testimonials”, Annefloor Alting, Senior Consultant at Partner Africa, explains.
In Mauritania, the HRIA engaged with all types of rights- holders involved in the small pelagic value chain - including artisanal fishers, purse seine pirogue fishers, commercial vessel fishers, transporters, fishmongers, artisanal processors, financiers, FMFO factory permanent employees and FMFO factory seasonal employees. In Senegal, the human rights researchers engaged with artisanal fishers and processors with close links to Mauritanian small pelagic fisheries.
More than 200 rights-holders and international stakeholders were interviewed for this assessment.
Overall, the HRIA identified a number of actual and potential human rights impacts associated with small pelagic fisheries in Mauritania and Senegal, including the rights to a healthy environment, adequate standard of living and labour rights. These impacts apply to different rights holders in different ways and were found at a range of scales including artisanal and industrial fisheries and various steps in supply chains. In Mauritania and Senegal, the report found that small scale fishers and supply chains have been displaced and food security undermined by the growth of the FMFO sector.
Most importantly, the HRIA highlighted that a responsible small pelagics industry has much potential to positively impact human rights of the local population: bringing stability to the fisheries in this region can support economic growth and provide a stable employment to local populations in a place where it is sorely needed.
Based on Partner Africa’s assessment, the Global Roundtable:
- acknowledges the gap between the current practices in Senegal and Mauritania and the FMFO industry’s global practices and standards. Today, in these two countries, the FMFO sector does not have the desired impacts on food security, livelihoods and the environment.
- commits to working with stakeholders to address these issues.
In addition, the Global Roundtable:
- expresses its support for the commendable ongoing efforts by the Mauritanian authorities to implement a new small pelagics fishery management plan, to prioritise fisheries for human consumption and to improve fish handling and processing capacity and practices, and to advance responsible and regional management of small pelagic stocks. The Global Roundtable seeks to support these efforts by working with members, local and international stakeholders and institutions to support improvements in fisheries management and in regional supply chains.
- encourages local authorities to take and enforce further action supporting the upgrading of environmental and social practices within the factories.
- calls on all companies sourcing FMFO from Mauritania to join the Mauritania Fishery Improvement Project for small pelagics (FIP), get their suppliers to join; engage with the MarinTrust Improver Programme or the MSC In-Transition to MSC Programme, and with the Global Roundtable on Marine Ingredients.
- encourages each stakeholder involved in the value chain to take their responsibility and use their leverage, so the main salient impacts are addressed.
The FIP is composed of companies having expressed a desire to improve the management of the fishery through a multi stakeholder approach. This approach has been supported by the Mauritanian government since its launch in 2017. While FIPs seek to improve fisheries management practices and policies, the ability to affect change is limited by market leverage and other factors.
Many FIP participants have committed to demonstrating higher performance standards across a range of environmental and social issues through participation in the MarinTrust Improver Programme and having their factories audited against the MarinTrust standard.
A FIP’s long term objective is for the fishery to achieve MSC certification and MarinTrust approval (and for the FMFO factories to achieve MarinTrust certification and MSC Chain of Custody certification). Even if the Mauritania Small Pelagics FIP has been focusing mostly on biodiversity aspects so far, the actors involved in the initiative have mentioned that the objective is to incorporate more social impact indicators in the future, in order to drive positive change at this level too.
The Mauritania FIP Steering Committee recently reviewed the report and have provided constructive and insightful feedback. This includes highlighting important structural differences in both artisanal and industrial fisheries between Mauritania and Senegal including use of foreign labour in Mauritania; a desire to engage more fishmeal companies (many of which were closed when stakeholder interviews were being conducted), government agencies and civil society organisations; potential links between pelagic fishing and clandestine migration; and the difficulties some groups face in accessing social security and health insurance. These comments, combined with both the findings and acknowledged limitations in the HRIA, provide a good roadmap for future phases of assessment. The full comment is available here.
Launched in 2021, the Global Roundtable on Marine Ingredients is a sector wide, multi-stakeholder initiative working to drive environmental and social improvements in key fisheries globally.
The roundtable works to:
· discuss and agree ways to improve the sustainability of marine ingredient materials
· increase availability of sustainable marine ingredients
· work in a precompetitive manner to drive environmental and social improvements in fisheries
· maintain a global overview of the state of the resources and industry
· present industry advances with regards to sustainability and communicate these through the value chain