08 November 2023
BLOOM sends a formal notice to Carrefour to put an end to the ecological and human tragedy of tuna fishing
08 November 2023
After months of research and appalling revelations about the destructiveness and multi-dimensional abuses of tropical tuna fishing (see our “TunaGate” series), BLOOM is today taking a decisive step to ensure that the major retailers, first and foremost Carrefour, take the urgent measures needed to put an end to the human and ecological tragedy being played out behind cans of tropical tuna.
By refusing to adopt responsible sourcing policies with minimum requirements for its purchases of tropical tuna products, supermarkets bear a major responsibility not only for the collapse of marine biodiversity but also for the countless human rights violations documented throughout the tuna “value” chain, from capture to marketing.
This is why BLOOM has sent a formal notice to Carrefour, the 7th largest supermarket chain in the world, for flagrant breach of its duty of vigilance.
The chain is offering products derived from unacceptable industrial processes to hundreds of millions of consumers around the world.
This formal legal notice was built with the help of the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School and the Sciences Po legal clinic and falls within the scope of the 2017 French law on duty of vigilance, which requires companies to identify, evaluate and prevent all social and environmental risks emanating from their value chains.
With a sales revenue of more than 83 billion euros in 2022 and being the only supermarket chain to be included in the CAC 40, Carrefour operates in more than 14,000 shops in 40 countries and is the seventh largest supermarket chain in the world. The chain offers products from unacceptable industrial processes to hundreds of millions of consumers around the world. Carrefour is the French supermarket giant par excellence, hence it has the responsibility and the duty to set a good example for the rest of the actors in the market, both in France and internationally. Carrefour’s tuna sourcing practices should be beyond reproach, but the ground-breaking “Willful Ignorance” ranking published today by BLOOM shows that the tuna sourcing policies of European supermarkets are totally inadequate when it comes to the crucial issues of protecting workers and marine species. Contrary to its hasty communication on the supposed “sustainability” of its seafood products, Carrefour obtained a low score of 4.7 out of 10.
“Mass retailers are deliberately turning a blind eye to the dramatic realities of tuna fishing“: this is the damning conclusion drawn by Pauline Bricault, lead author of the “Willful Ignorance” report, which assesses the tuna sourcing practices of 36 French, British, Italian, Spanish, German and Belgian retailers.
Carrefour’s strategies for avoiding responsibility
Carrefour claims on its website to support “sustainable fishing by developing a more responsible range of seafood and aquaculture products”. In reality, Carrefour markets tuna-based products from destructive practices that the retailer does not hesitate to describe as “sustainable” or “responsible”, and does so on a massive scale. In 2018, France’s largest retailer even explained its choice not to take part in the collaborative sectoral initiative”Tuna Protection Alliance”  because it was “too far advanced to spend time on it” and already had a “fairly solid policy”. This kind of talk would lead you to believe that Carrefour is extremely vigilant in avoiding sourcing species that are overexploited or come from destructive fishing techniques, but this is not the case.
Like many retail chains, the overwhelming majority of the tuna sold by Carrefour comes from industrial fisheries using highly controversial destructive devices such as fish aggregating devices, or “FADs”, highly technological rafts under which tuna and other marine animals are indiscriminately caught. The result is a slaughter of rays, sharks and turtles, as well as the tuna themselves, most of which are caught before they have reproduced (so-called ‘juvenile’ fish). Despite knowledge of the damage caused by industrial tuna fishing, some tuna products marketed by Carrefour, such as those under the ‘Petit Navire’ brand, carry a ‘responsible approach’ label, even though they come directly from these destructive fisheries.
What’s more, despite its written commitment not to buy fish from illegal fishing, which carries the highest risk of human rights violations, Carrefour buys its supplies from the world’s largest industrial shipowners (Fong Chun Formosa, Thai Union and Dongwon Group), which regularly buy from fisheries identified as illegal or illicit.
Our requests to Carrefour
The letter of formal notice we have sent to Carrefour includes several specific requests to ensure that it complies with the law on the duty of vigilance. Among the most important, we have asked Carrefour to:
- Immediately and permanently withdraw from their offer any tuna product from fisheries using, even partially, FADs, longlines, gillnets or any other industrial technique generating large quantities of by-catches.
- Immediately withdraw from their offer all industrial tuna products from overfished stocks and support your small-scale fishing suppliers so that they commit to no longer targeting overfished stocks by 2025.
- Prioritise the supply of tuna products from short distribution channels.
- By 2025, guarantee consumers a supply of tuna products exclusively from selective artisanal fisheries using passive gear.
- Do everything possible to reduce sales of tuna products as much as possible. In particular, this means stopping the promotion of these products, and reminding consumers through every possible means of communication that tuna is a wild, free and fragile animal, and that it can under no circumstances remain a mass consumer good.
- Maintain an up-to-date and easily accessible online public register of all fishing vessels and support vessels that supply or facilitate the supply of fish to its buyers. This register must contain, in particular, the name of the vessel, the UVI IMO number, the fishing gear, including FADs, the areas where the vessel is authorised to operate, the beneficial owner, the operator, the captain, the identity and nationality of the crew, the recruitment agencies or brokers, the wages and working hours, and the history of human rights and environmental violations.
- Ensure and prove that all fisheries involved in their tuna supply are excluded from all relevant IUU fishing blacklists, including those established by the EU or RFMOs.
- Commit to cease any commercial relationship with a supplier who has been involved in any form of human rights violation in the last five years, throughout the value chain.
- Require full monitoring of fishing and landing operations by observers. Monitoring by an electronic surveillance system can only be considered as a complement. The safety of observers and their complete independence must be guaranteed. All observer reports must be accessible to the public.
- Only buy from suppliers who require that fishers receive sufficient food and drinking water, who ensure that they have at least 10 hours of rest in every 24-hour period, and that they are paid a decent wage.
- Only source from suppliers who recruit workers through official channels and who ensure that workers have read, signed and received a copy of their employment contract in a language they understand. Workers must not be charged any recruitment fees. Carrefour must also ensure that no deductions are made from wages and that no practice of debt bondage is perpetuated.
- Only source from suppliers who have independent and democratic trade unions and who respect their workers’ right to collective bargaining and participation in trade union activities.
In accordance with the French Duty of Vigilance law, Carrefour has three months to comply with the obligations imposed by this legislative framework by implementing actions to put an end to the disastrous impacts of tropical tuna fishing.
To find out more about the law on corporate duty of vigilance
A pioneering but imperfect French law…
The duty of vigilance law, adopted in 2017, requires major French companies to publish a vigilance plan including measures to identify risks and prevent “serious violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, the health and safety of individuals and the environment” resulting from their activities.
It applies to all companies registered in France as a société anonyme (SA), société européenne (SE), société en commandite par actions (SCA) or société par actions simplifiées (SAS) and with at least five thousand employees in France, or at least ten thousand employees in France and the rest of the world.
Companies affected by this law, such as Carrefour, must draw up a vigilance plan comprising the following five measures:
- A map of all the risks present in their value chain;
- Regular assessment procedures with their subsidiaries, subcontractors and suppliers;
- Appropriate action to mitigate their risks or prevent serious harm;
- A mechanism for collecting alerts on the existence or occurrence of risks ;
- A system for monitoring the measures implemented and evaluating their effectiveness.
The duty of vigilance law is not perfect. It applies only to certain large companies in France. Certain types of company are not covered by the law, despite the potential risks in their value chains. A striking example of the lack of coherence in the “incomplete” scope of the law concerns E.Leclerc. This retailer has the largest share of the French market, but is not affected by the duty of vigilance law because its legal form, a SARL, is not included in the scope of the law. It is therefore not legally obliged to prevent serious risks and harm that could arise from its activities. Nor is it alone: other supermarket chains such as LIDL and Aldi are not subject to this law either.
…Inspiring the development of a Europe-wide directive
A draft European directive on corporate sustainability due diligence, partly similar to the French law, was proposed by the European Commission in February 2022 and is currently being negotiated. Should this directive be approved, while maintaining a high level of ambition, it would make it possible to oblige major European companies to take responsibility for the risks posed by their activities.
 Launched in 2018 by the Earthworm Foundation, the “Tuna Protection Alliance” is a pre-competitive collaborative effort between key market players in the canned tuna industry, aimed at promoting certain fishing techniques and sustainable resource management. Its members include supermarket chains, canneries and tuna brands, mainly in the French market.
 This concerns “IUU” fisheries, which stands for “Illegal, Undeclared and Unregulated”.
 For more information, visit: https://vigilance-plan.org/the-law/