Pledge to Stop Illegal Tuna Fishing and Related Forced Labour on the High Seas by 2020

05 Jun 2017

Max Hall, Public Engagement, Tel.: +41 (0)22 869 3691, Email:

· Fifty major fishing companies, retailers and associated businesses today signed the Tuna 2020 Traceability Declaration pledging to stop illegal tuna from coming to market and associated forced labour on the high seas.

· The agreement was brokered by the World Economic Forum and is supported by policymakers, 18 leading NGOs and civil society organizations, and the President of the UN General Assembly.

· To help deliver on the outcomes in the declaration, the World Economic Forum will mobilize an “Ocean Data Alliance”, an open-source collaboration between leading tech companies, governments and research institutes.

· One-third of global fish stocks are overfished, much caught illegally (source FAO) – a theft of around $24 billion annually from the economies of fishing communities.

· Illegal tuna fishing is a source of forced labour in many countries.

· Read the declaration, with signatories and endorsements at

New York City, 5 June 2017 – Fifty of the world’s largest businesses, retailers and fishing companies from across the tuna supply chain today announced a commitment to stamp out illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in their industry, to eliminate forced labour from fishing vessels and to protect the health of the oceans and livelihoods of fishing communities.

Launched on World Environment Day (5 June) at the UN’s first global Ocean Conference, the Tuna 2020 Traceability Declaration aims to stop illegal tuna from coming to market. It is supported by 18 civil society organizations including the Benioff Ocean Initiative (University of California, Santa Barbara), The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Marine Stewardship Council, The Nature Conservancy, and OceanElders.

The combined revenue of the businesses is $150 billion. The declaration is available at and sends a clear message to organizations on the tuna supply chain – from fishing companies to producers to retailers – that the net is closing in on illegally fished tuna and forced labour on the high seas.

To help deliver on the outcomes in the declaration, the World Economic Forum will mobilize an “Ocean Data Alliance”, an open-source collaboration between leading tech companies, governments and research institutes. This will bring together the data needed for comprehensive monitoring of ocean resources. Such traceability of stocks and the elimination of illegal activities is possible through new Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies such as blockchain, big data, machine learning and satellite tracking.

Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing represents a global theft of about 26 million metric tonnes of fish, or $24 billion dollars, each year. Around 1 billion people rely on fish as their primary source of animal protein, particularly in developing countries.

Tuna is one of the most overfished and at-risk groups of fish. Many are “keystone species”, meaning that overfishing can have a significant impact on ocean health. Bluefin tuna have seen their populations collapse by over 90% and will take decades to fully recover.

IUU tuna fishing is a source of forced labour in many countries, violating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Labour Organization’s Conventions and Recommendations.

“The Tuna 2020 Traceability Declaration is an unprecedented commitment to stop illegal tuna from coming to market. Multistakeholder collaboration combined with Fourth Industrial Revolution innovations such as advanced remote sensing, the latest generation of satellites and new computing technologies provide real opportunity to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals to make this happen,” said Dominic Waughray, Head of Public-Private Partnership, Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum.

Meg Caldwell, Deputy Director, Oceans for the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, said that recent analysis shows that IUU fishing may be 50 percent more than officially reported catch.

“The good news is that there are solutions for responsible and evidence-based marine resource management. This intersection with our strategic priorities is why tackling IUU fishing has become an increasing priority for us,” she said.

The Tuna 2020 Traceability Declaration came out of discussions at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos in January 2017 between industry stakeholders, governments, civil society and the President of the General Assembly, H.E. Peter Thomson, President of the United Nations General Assembly, New York. They called for further collaboration between the public and private sectors to accelerate efforts to address the IUU fishing of tuna in line with Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG 14) on oceans.

"SDG 14 is critical for the health and economies of many nations, particularly coastal countries and small island states. This declaration is a bold step towards ending illegal fishing and empowering countries to make fisheries more sustainable", said Árni Mathiesen, Assistant Director-General, Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

The UN Ocean Conference (5-9 June) marks the first time since the 1982 passing of the Law of the Sea that so many world leaders will convene to discuss the future of the world’s oceans, including its impact on economic growth, environmental sustainability, human health and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Notes to Editors

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All opinions expressed are those of the author. The World Economic Forum Blog is an independent and neutral platform dedicated to generating debate around the key topics that shape global, regional and industry agendas.

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